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All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-9-2014
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This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 9.

• The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is only a few weeks away. So who's this year's cover girl? There are some solid candidates, including Genevieve Morton (pictured).

• College football has lost its collective mind. Bobby Petrino's back at Louisville, and Alabama might hire Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator. I'm already salivating over Kiffin's first visit back to Knoxville. Petrino's probably already salivating over some Cardinals academic assistant.

Glavine, Maddux and the Big Hurt got their Hall passes. But the process continues to be a farce, which Dan Le Batard highlighted by giving his vote to Deadspin, unleashing much pearl-clutching sanctimony.

Blake Griffin threw down (literally, his hand didn't touch the rim) over poor, poor Kris Humphries. But it wasn't the dunk of the night. No, the dunk of the night belonged to Duquesne's Ovie Soko, with an assist from a teammate.

A kid who survived two separate plane crashes that killed close family members returned to the basketball court last night. He also made his first shot attempt.

• TV gold: The WWE is launching its own network, and one of the shows will be Legends House, a Real World-style reality show featuring guys like Rowdy Roddy Piper and Hacksaw Jim Duggan.

Dennis Rodman was drunk during his passionate defense of Kim Jong Un on CNN. So exactly how long has Rodman been drunk?

• Thank God for people with too much time on their hands: Check out this Lego Simpsons house.

• Greg Popovich put a new spin on his normally terse courtside interviews.

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

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Post date: Thursday, January 9, 2014 - 10:52
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/most-amazing-stats-bcs-national-championship-history
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Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. In particular, the most important game of the college football season.

Some fall on the sabermetric side of things, while others like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.

With the BCS era in the rear-view mirror and 16 memorable games locked in history, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from the BCS National Championship Games:

18: Largest BCS deficit overcome
The Florida State Seminoles trailed 21-3 late in the second quarter of the 16th and final BCS national title game. The 18-point deficit against Auburn was the largest comeback in a BCS National Championship Game (NCG from here on out). Jameis Winston was 6-of-7 for 80 yards on the final drive in which he led the Noles to a national title by connecting with Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds remaining for the game-winning touchdown. The drive capped the BCS NCG-record 18-point comeback for the Noles and ended the BCS era in tremendously dramatic fashion. That said, the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds left in the game isn’t the latest game-winning play in BCS history.

0:00: Latest game-winning score in BCS NCG history
Technically, the clock wasn’t running when Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett scored a five-yard rushing touchdown in double overtime against Miami. However, the latest game-winning score in a BCS NCG came from the Auburn Tigers in 2010. Cam Newton led the Tigers on a 7-play, 73-yard drive that sapped the final 2:33 worth of clock and ended with a Wes Byrum 19-yard field goal that broke the 19-19 tie in Auburn’s favor. Time ran out on the Ducks as the kick sailed through the uprights and War Eagle celebrated its first national championship since 1957.

14-1: Record of the team leading at halftime
The Tigers held a 21-10 lead over the Florida State Seminoles on Monday night and now own a very dubious BCS NCG honor. Prior to the BCS’ electric final game, the team leading at halftime of the NCG was 14-0. Only the Florida-Oklahoma title game in the 2008 season was tied at halftime, making the 2013 Auburn Tigers the only team in BCS NCG history to give up a halftime lead. The Noles are the only team to be trailing at halftime and still win the national title after outscoring War Eagle 24-10 in the second half.

34: Tre Mason's NCG-record rushing attempts
Adrian Peterson rushed 25 times for 82 yards in the lopsided USC blowout of the Sooners in the 2004 championship game. All-Day has owned the NCG game rushing attempts record ever since — until Tre Mason came along. The Tigers tailback blew past the previous record to carry a BCS NCG-record 34 times in the loss to Florida State. His 195 rushing yards were a clearcut No. 2, blowing past Beanie Wells’ 146 yards against LSU in 2007. Vince Young owns the NCG record for rushing yards with 200 against USC in the most memorable game ever played during the BCS era. What’s more impressive about VY? His 30-of-40 passing night in that same game is a BCS NCG record for completion percentage (75 percent).

8-8: Record of the No. 1 seed in the title game
The team ranked No. 1 in the final BCS Standings won the first four BCS NCG games from 1998-01. Ohio State in 2002 was the first two-seed to win the game and it began a run for the No. 2 team. The second-ranked team in the final BCS Standings won 6-of-7 BCS title games from 2002-08. Alabama in 2009 and Auburn in '10 both won as the top seed and then both of Alabama’s titles in ’11 and ’12 came as the No. 2-ranked team. Florida State was the No. 1 team in the land, and, by way of its win over Auburn, evened the all-time BCS NCG 1-versus-2 record to a dead even 8-8.

4-6: Heisman Trophy winners in the BCS NCG
Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy and the BCS National Championship in the same year, becoming just the fourth player during the 16-year era to accomplish the feat. Cam Newton (2010), Mark Ingram (2009) and Matt Leinart (2004) are the only other Heisman winners to go on to win the championship in the same year. Technically, Tim Tebow, Chris Weinke and Reggie Bush won BCS titles and Heisman Trophies but none of them did it in the same year. In fact, Weinke (2000), Bush (2005), Eric Crouch (2001), Troy Smith (2006) and Sam Bradford (2008) lost in the BCS NCG a month after winning the most prestigious award in sports.

6: Undefeated national champions who also won the Heisman Trophy
This one extends a bit beyond the BCS era, but only six players in history have won a Heisman Trophy, a national championship and finished the year with an unbeaten record. Tony Dorsett was the first to do so for Pitt in 1976 and Charles Woodson was the second in 1997 for Michigan. However, the other four have come during the BCS era and three have come in the last five years. Matt Leinart and USC did it 2004, Mark Ingram and Alabama did it in '09, Cam Newton and Auburn in '10 and, now, Jameis Winston and Florida State accomplished the feat this season. Only six players in history can claim what Winston can claim — a perfect Heisman season that ends with a championship.

365: Matt Leinart's NCG passing record
It was an awful game as USC crushed poor Oklahoma in 2004, but Matt Leinart had the best passing afternoon of anyone in BCS NCG history. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner completed 18-of-35 passes for a NCG-record 365 yards passing and a record five touchdowns. His Trojans scored a BCS NCG-record 55 points and at the time set the record for most total yards with 525 (broken by his own team the next year with 574 against Texas in a loss). Who is No. 2 on the list? No, not one of the nine Heisman-winning QBs to play in the game, but Oregon’s Darron Thomas with 363 yards in his valiant performance against Auburn in 2010.

94,906: Highest Attendance in a BCS NCG
Tickets outside the Rose Bowl on Monday were going for below face value — a problem most venues in most sports are dealing with across the country. But the official attendance for the final BCS national title game was a robust 94,308. However, it was short of the biggest NCG crowd ever. That honor goes to Alabama and Texas at the end of the 2009 season in the Rose Bowl with 94,906. Interestingly enough, both of those numbers fall short of the 95,173 that watched Michigan State's beat Stanford in the most recent Rose Bowl. There is one bowl game that isn't having any issues with ticket sales.

21.7: Highest rating for a BCS title game
The most watched BCS national title game was what many believe was the best NCG of the BCS era. Texas and USC pulled a monster 21.7 TV rating to set the record as the highest-rated college football championship game. The Horns-Trojans bout in Pasadena was head and shoulders above the rest of the BCS games as the next six most-watched games pulled numbers between 17.2 and 17.8. Oklahoma and Florida State in the 2000 title game finished No. 2 with a 17.8 rating. Auburn and Florida State tied Auburn and Oregon (2010) for ninth out of the 16 BCS championship games. It is shocking that the the final BCS bowl — the second-best game of the BCS championship era — barely topped last year's embarrassment by Notre Dame at the hands of Alabama (15.1).

279: Reggie Bush's NCG all-purpose yards record
In a loss to Texas, the Heisman Trophy winner set the title game benchmark for all-purpose production with 279 yards. He carried 13 times for 82 yards rushing, caught six passes for 95 yards and registered 102 yards on kickoff returns while scoring once (and fumbling as well — sorry, USC fans). He tops one of the forgotten heroes of the BCS era in Tennessee's Peerless Price (242 yards). The Vols wide receiver set the BCS NCG record with 199 yards receiving to go with 43 yards on punt returns and made the biggest play of the game when he scored on a back-breaking, 79-yard touchdown pass from Tee Martin. It was the longest pass play in BCS NCG history until Oregon's Darron Thomas hooked up with Jeff Maehl for 81 yards against Auburn 12 years later.

5: Different SEC teams to win a championship
Not to beat a dead horse, but the SEC dominated the BCS era. As college football exploded into big business, the league that is the most dedicated took over the sport. The SEC finished the 16-year BCS era with nine championships from five different schools, including an 8-1 record in the NCG against other conferences. That one loss, of course, was Florida State's dramatic victory on Monday night. Only the Big 12 boasts two different champions — Texas and Oklahoma — while the SEC boasts three (of the four) teams with more than one championship — Alabama, Florida and LSU. Florida State (2-2) was the only team from the ACC to even make an appearance in the game and Ohio State (1-2) was the only Big Ten squad to ever appear in the NCG. The Pac-12 and Big East had two representatives each in USC, Oregon, Miami and Virginia Tech respectively. Nebraska and Notre Dame each appeared once.

10: Ohio State's record for BCS bowl appearances
The Buckeyes led the nation with 10 appearances in the Bowl Championship Series. Three of those came in the National Championship Game, including Jim Tressell's 2002 team winning the national title in surprising fashion. The Bucks went 6-4 overall with a 5-2 mark in other BCS games. The six wins tie USC for the most BCS bowl wins since the format's implementation in 1998 (although, the Trojans were 6-1 overall). Virginia Tech (1-5), Florida State (3-5) and Oklahoma (4-5) tied for the most losses while the Sooners' nine appearances finished second overall. Notre Dame finished 0-4 in BCS games while West Virginia won the most BCS bowls without losing (3-0).

17: Different coaches to earn a bid to the BCS NCG
Of the 32 possible spots in the 16 BCS national title games, only 17 coaches have earned the right to compete for the national title. It speaks to the parity of the game — or the dominance of the "big boys" — that nine different coaches have been to the final game more than once. Nick Saban (4-0) and Urban Meyer (2-0) are the only two names to go to multiple title games without losing and Saban is the only one to take two different schools to the title game much less win it. Bob Stoops (1-3) tied Saban for the most appearances with four while both Jim Tressell and Bobby Bowden finished 1-2 in the big game. Larry Coker, Pete Carroll, Les Miles and Mack Brown all finished 1-1 while only Phil Fulmer, Gene Chizik and Jimbo Fisher finished 1-0. Frank Beamer, Frank Solich, Chip Kelly, Brian Kelly and Gus Malzahn finished 0-1. Strangely enough, however, coaches making their debut in the national title game were 11-6. Only LSU and Florida State have made it to the title game with two separate coaches.

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The Most Amazing Stats in BCS National Championship History
Post date: Thursday, January 9, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/grading-college-footballs-first-year-coaching-hires-2013
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With college football’s 2013 season completed, it’s time to take a look back at the season that was amd review the performance of all 125 teams before 2014 kicks off.

 

College football’s coach carousel was quite active last offseason, featuring 31 changes among BCS programs. The changes in 2014 are not expected to reach that number, so we may not see another year with 31 teams changing coaches for a while.

Auburn’s Gus Malzahn easily takes the top spot in our first-year coaching hires from 2013. The Tigers were one of the most-improved teams in the nation and nearly claimed their second national title in the BCS era. Malzahn’s offense once again gave opposing SEC defenses fits, and Auburn should be back in the national title mix in 2014.

After Malzahn, Utah State’s Matt Wells, Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen, Boston College’s Steve Addazio and Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury round out the top coaching hires from 2013.
 

Ranking the Performance of College Football's New Coaches from 2013

1. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Before: 3-9 (0-8) After: 12-2 (7-1)

Malzahn’s debut at Auburn might be one of the best first-year coaching jobs of the BCS era. The Tigers struggled mightily last season, losing all eight conference games and finishing with their worst record since a 3-8 mark in Terry Bowden’s final year in 1998. But Auburn rebounded quickly under Malzahn, who had a solid grasp of the team’s roster due to a stint as offensive coordinator under Gene Chizik from 2009-11. The Tigers suffered an early season loss to LSU (35-21) but finished the regular season on a nine-game winning streak. During this streak, Auburn made two of the most memorable plays of the 2013 season, with Chris Davis returning a missed field goal to beat Alabama and quarterback Nick Marshall connecting with Ricardo Louis on an unlikely 73-yard touchdown pass to beat Georgia. The Tigers fell just short of winning the national championship, but the foundation is strong for this team to contend once again in 2014. Another credit to Malzahn’s ability to coach was the development of Marshall, who was a Georgia defensive back in 2011 and played only one season at quarterback on the junior college level.
Final Grade: A+


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2. Matt Wells, Utah State
Before: 11-2 (6-0) After: 9-5 (7-1)

Wells inherited 14 returning starters off a team that won 11 games in 2012, so it was no surprise Utah State won at least seven games for the third consecutive season. But winning nine games in 2013 is quite an accomplishment for Wells, especially after starting quarterback Chuckie Keeton was lost for the year with a torn ACL in early October. With Keeton sidelined, Utah State turned to a true freshman quarterback in Darell Garretson and a defense ranked as the best in the Mountain West. Of the Aggies' five losses, three were by a touchdown or less, including games to Utah, USC and Fresno State. Utah State also capped its season with a bowl victory over Northern Illinois. Wells kept the Aggies on track despite a key injury and led Utah State to an appearance in the first Mountain West Championship Game. Despite the two-game regression in wins, 2013 was a very successful year for Wells. But now comes the big question. As Utah State is further removed from Gary Andersen, can Wells keep the program performing at a high level?
Final Grade: A

3. Gary Andersen, Wisconsin
Before: 8-6 (4-4) After: 9-4 (6-2)

Much like his successor at Utah State, Andersen inherited plenty of talent in his first year with the Badgers. Wisconsin returned 11 starters, including one of the best backfields in the nation in running backs Melvin Gordon and James White. The Badgers lost two of their first five games, but one of those defeats was by seven to Ohio State, and the other was a 32-30 loss at Arizona State, which featured some questionable officiating at the end. A late-season loss to Penn State ended any shot Wisconsin had of playing in a BCS bowl, and the Badgers dropped a 34-24 matchup to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl. Overall, 2013 was another solid year for Wisconsin, which has been a model of consistency recently with 12 consecutive winning seasons. Andersen’s top priority in 2014 will be to upgrade the passing game, along with replenish a defense that loses a handful of key players in the front seven.
Final Grade: A-

4. Steve Addazio, Boston College
Before: 2-10 (1-7) After: 7-6 (4-4)

Expectations were low at Boston College heading into the 2013 season. The Eagles finished 6-18 in the final two years under former coach Frank Spaziani and were picked last in the Atlantic Division at ACC media days. But Addazio pushed all of the right buttons this season. Boston College made a bowl game for the first time since 2010, and the Eagles finished out of the cellar in the Atlantic. All six of Addazio’s losses came against bowl teams, including national champion Florida State, Orange Bowl champ Clemson and a solid USC team. The Eagles gave the Seminoles all it could handle, losing only by 14 (48-34) in late September. Boston College finished the year by losing its last two games. However, that shouldn’t put a damper on Addazio’s first season, especially with a solid recruiting class on the way. With running back Andre Williams, quarterback Chase Rettig and receiver Alex Amidon moving on next year, the Eagles may take a step back in the win column. But with Addazio on the sidelines, Boston College is well-positioned for the future.
Final Grade: A-

5. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
Before: 8-5 (4-5) After: 8-5 (4-5)

Kingsbury’s first season in Lubbock didn’t result in a different record than his predecessor Tommy Tuberville had in 2012. However, there’s a different feeling surrounding the program, as Texas Tech is trending in the right direction going into 2014. A soft schedule helped the Red Raiders start 7-0, but the second half of the season featured a tougher slate, and Kingsbury’s team ended with a 7-5 mark. Despite losing its final five games, Texas Tech lost to Oklahoma by only eight points and finished the year with a convincing 37-23 victory over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl. Although momentum is tough to carry from the end of one season to the start of another, the Red Raiders benefitted from the extra bowl practices and should be picked among the top 35 teams next season.
Final Grade: B+

6. Mark Helfrich, Oregon
Before: 12-1 (8-1) After: 11-2 (7-2)

Oregon was pegged by most as a national title contender in the preseason. The Ducks started 8-0, but lost two out of their next three games, including a costly 26-20 defeat at Stanford. A knee injury to quarterback Marcus Mariota hampered the offense late in the year and pushed Oregon out of contention for the Pac-12 title. Helfrich had a tough job in 2013, as expectations were high and Chip Kelly was not an easy coach to replace. Despite the two losses, the Ducks won at least 10 games for the sixth consecutive season and extended their bowl winning streak to three. Helfrich has a busy offseason ahead, as he has to find a replacement for defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, as well as close on a likely top-15 recruiting class. With most of Oregon’s core returning next year, Helfrich will have a chance to get the Ducks back into the national title mix.
Final Grade: B+

7. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati
Before: 10-3 (5-2) After: 9-4 (6-2)

With the recent defections in the American Athletic Conference, Cincinnati has a chance to emerge as one of the top programs from the “Group of Five.” Three coaches – Brian Kelly, Butch Jones and Tuberville – have guided the Bearcats to at least nine wins since 2007. Tuberville was a surprising hire at Cincinnati, but he kept the program on track with a third-place finish in the American Athletic. The Bearcats were soundly defeated by Illinois 45-17 in the second week of the season, but this team was close to finishing conference play with an unbeaten mark. Losses to Louisville and South Florida came by a touchdown or less. Cincinnati lost its bowl game 39-17 to North Carolina, but Tuberville seems to have this program on solid footing. Don’t be surprised if the Bearcats are picked to win the American Athletic Conference in 2014.
Final Grade: B+

8. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois
Before: 12-2 (8-0) After: 12-2 (8-0)

Carey’s first full season on the sidelines in DeKalb nearly resulted in another BCS bowl for Northern Illinois. The Huskies cruised to a 12-0 mark in the regular season, which included wins over two BCS opponents (Iowa and Purdue). But Northern Illinois ended the year with a disappointing loss to Bowling Green (47-27), which cost the program a chance to play in a BCS bowl. Perhaps some of that disappointment carried over into the Poinsettia Bowl, where the Huskies were defeated by Utah State 21-14. Despite the losses to Bowling Green and Utah State, Northern Illinois won at least 11 games for the fourth consecutive season. Carey will have a tough assignment next year, as quarterback Jordan Lynch and standout safety Jimmie Ward depart. But the Huskies are set to bring in one of the MAC’s top recruiting classes, and there’s enough talent to win the West Division once again in 2014.
Final Grade: B+

9. Scott Shafer, Syracuse
Before: 8-5 (5-2) After: 7-6 (4-4)

Admittedly, we were slightly skeptical of Shafer this preseason. After all, this was his first head coaching gig, and the Orange lost several key pieces from last season’s 8-5 team. However, Shafer did a remarkable job of getting Syracuse back to the postseason. Syracuse started 0-2, suffered a 56-0 loss to Georgia Tech as well as a 59-3 whipping at the hands of Florida State. But the Orange never collapsed, finishing the season with a thrilling 34-31 win over Boston College to earn bowl eligibility. And Syracuse used the bowl practices to their advantage, as quarterback Terrel Hunt was clearly an improved player in the 21-17 win over Minnesota in the Texas Bowl.
Final Grade: B+

10. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
Before: 1-11 (1-8) After: 4-8 (1-8)

MacIntyre walked into a difficult situation at Colorado, a program that has not had a winning season since 2005, and there were concerns about facility improvements if the Buffaloes wanted to win in the Pac-12. Coming off a 1-11 record and a roster that was not stocked with overwhelming talent, MacIntyre did a solid job just getting Colorado to four wins. Sure, three of those came in non-conference action, but the Buffaloes were more competitive in Pac-12 action. MacIntyre appears to have found his quarterback of the future in Sefo Liufau, and most of the starting lineup will return in 2014. After a bad two-year stint under former coach Jon Embree, Colorado is headed in the right direction under MacIntyre.
Final Grade: B+

11. Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky
Before: 7-6 (4-4) After: 8-4 (4-3)

Given how his Arkansas tenure ended, Petrino was a risky hire for Western Kentucky. But the move was worth the risk for the Hilltoppers, as Petrino – before his motorcycle incident – was regarded as one of the top coaches in the nation. Petrino was solid in his first (and only) year at Western Kentucky, guiding the Hilltoppers to a win over Kentucky in the season opener and four wins in conference play. Two of Western Kentucky’s losses (South Alabama and Troy) were by seven points or less. Petrino couldn’t get the Hilltoppers to a bowl game. However, Western Kentucky has won at least seven games in three consecutive years. Not bad for a program that started on the FBS level in 2009.
Final Grade: B

12. Bryan Harsin, Arkansas State
Before: 10-3 (7-1) After: 8-5 (5-2, Harsin did not coach the bowl game)

When the 2013 season kicked off, Harsin became the fourth head coach at Arkansas State in four years. But his stay in Jonesboro was short, as Harsin left in December to take over at Boise State. He did not coach in the GoDaddy Bowl, but Harsin guided Arkansas State to a 7-5 mark in the regular season, with losses coming against Auburn, Memphis, Missouri, Louisiana-Lafayette and Western Kentucky. Despite losing quarterback Ryan Aplin after the 2012 season, the Red Wolves still managed to average 29.2 points a game in 2013. Considering the lack of stability at head coach for the Red Wolves, it’s a testament to where this program is that they were able to win 28 games over the last three years. Harsin was a good hire, but Arkansas State needs new coach Blake Anderson to stick around for a few years. Change at a program is fine. However, five head coaches in five seasons is simply too much turnover.
Final Grade: B

13. Butch Jones, Tennessee
Before: 5-7 (1-7) After: 5-7 (2-6)

Tennessee was once one of the premier programs in the SEC East. However, the Volunteers have fallen on hard times recently, recording five losing seasons over the last six years. Given the recent lack of success in Knoxville, it’s hard to fault Jones on winning five games in his first season. Tennessee did show improvement in the SEC, beating South Carolina 23-21 and losing to Georgia and Vanderbilt by a combined seven points. Jones is putting together a top-five recruiting class, and the future in Knoxville looks bright. Tennessee took a few baby steps in the right direction in 2013. Now the next step for Jones is to get the Volunteers back in a bowl next year.
Final Grade: B

14. Matt Rhule, Temple
Before: 4-7 (2-5) After: 2-10 (1-7)

The final ledger on Rhule’s first season at Temple records only two wins. But the Owls played significantly better in the second half of 2013, losing their last four games by 10 points or less, including a three-point defeat to Fiesta Bowl champion UCF. Overall, Temple lost seven games by 10 points or less and avoided the cellar in the American Athletic Conference with a victory over Memphis in the season finale. Considering the close losses, along with the emergence of quarterback P.J. Walker in the second half of the season, Rhule’s first season at Temple doesn’t look as bad as the record might indicate.
Final Grade: C+

15. Trent Miles, Georgia State
Before: 1-10 (1-7) After: 0-12 (0-7)

Does it look strange to have a coach ranked this high that did not win a game in 2013? Sure. But let’s consider the circumstances Miles inherited. Georgia State finished 1-10 on the FCS level last season, and this program has only played football for four years. The Panthers were on the verge of a couple of wins, losing to Troy, Texas State and Arkansas State by a touchdown or less. Miles worked wonders at Indiana State on the FCS level prior to coming to Georgia State. Considering the improvement by the Panthers throughout the year and the close calls in their first season on the FBS level, Miles’ first season at Georgia State was better than the record shows.
Final Grade: C+

16. Mark Stoops, Kentucky
Before: 2-10 (0-8) After: 2-10 (0-8)

Coming off a 2-10 record with a difficult schedule ahead in 2013, Kentucky was expected to struggle this fall. The Wildcats won only two games (Miami, Ohio and Alabama State) and failed to record a SEC victory for the second year in a row. But there was progress on the field, as Kentucky lost to South Carolina by seven points and Mississippi State by six. Moral victories won’t get it done in the SEC. However, Stoops has the Wildcats trending in the right direction. The program is making much-needed facility improvements, and Stoops is expected to bring in a top-25 recruiting class. Kentucky may not make a bowl in 2014, but all signs point to the program being in good hands with Stoops at the helm.
Final Grade: C+

17. Ron Caragher, San Jose State
Before: 11-2 (5-1) After: 6-6 (5-3)

Caragher did a nice job getting San Jose State back to at least six wins, which is the program’s first back-to-back non-losing seasons since 1991-92. However, despite returning quarterback David Fales and one of the Mountain West’s top receiving corps, the Spartans regressed by five wins and missed out on a bowl. Caragher will have a tough job ahead next season, as San Jose State has to replace Fales and will lose defensive stalwarts in cornerback Bene Benwikere and linebacker Keith Smith.
Final Grade: C

18. Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Before: 4-8 (2-6) After: 3-9 (0-8)

Bielema wasn’t afraid to mix things up in his first season in the SEC, but results were tough to come by for Arkansas. Contributing to the lack of success on the field was a brutal SEC West, along with just three returning starters on offense. As expected, there were growing pains at quarterback and on the offensive line. However, Bielema’s recruiting paid off, as running back Alex Collins, tight end Hunter Henry and offensive linemen Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland are building blocks for the offense. The Razorbacks opened 3-0 but blew a 24-7 lead against Rutgers in their final non-conference game. SEC play was tough on a young Arkansas team, but there were a few close calls for Bielema, including an overtime loss to Mississippi State and a four-point defeat to LSU. Despite a 3-9 mark, Bielema’s team never quit and nearly pulled off a huge win in Death Valley. That’s a good sign going forward for Arkansas.
Final Grade: C

19. Willie Taggart, South Florida
Before: 3-9 (1-6) After: 2-10 (2-6)

We had Taggart pegged as one of the top hires from last year’s coaching carousel, but the Bulls’ first-year coach finished with a disappointing 2-10 mark. Of course, it’s hard to fault Taggart for everything that went wrong. Former coach Skip Holtz didn’t leave much to work with, and South Florida was especially short on offensive playmakers. Freshman quarterback Mike White showed signs of promise late in the year, and Andre Davis could be one of the top receivers in the American Athletic Conference in 2014. While wins were hard to come by, the Bulls played better at the end of the year. USF lost to UCF by three points and dropped a 35-23 game at Houston in late October. There’s only one fix for Taggart’s roster issues: recruiting. In early January, South Florida was regarded as having the top recruiting class in the American Athletic Conference. Better days are ahead for the Bulls.
Final Grade: C

20. Paul Haynes, Kent State
Before: 11-3 (8-0) After: 4-8 (3-5)

Kent State was just one win away from a BCS bowl last year. The Golden Flashes were +20 in turnover margin and won a handful of close games in 2013, so some regression in the win department was expected. However, Kent State surprisingly fell to 4-8 and out of the bowl picture. The Golden Flashes rallied to win their last two games, but 2013 was an underachieving season considering 10 starters were back, including all-purpose threat Dri Archer. Considering Kent State won its last two games, Haynes managed to end a disappointing season with some positive momentum.
Final Grade: C-

21. Dave Doeren, NC State
Before: 7-6 (4-4) After: 3-9 (0-8)

NC State entered 2013 by earning bowl trips in three consecutive seasons, and with a favorable schedule, another postseason game was a reasonable expectation. However, the Wolfpack backtracked in 2013, largely due to inconsistency at the quarterback spot. NC State finished the year on an eight-game losing streak and winless in conference play for the first time since 1959. While 2013 was largely a forgettable year for Doeren and his staff, the Wolfpack did land transfer quarterback Jacoby Brissett for 2014, and their recruiting class is ranked No. 7 in the ACC. NC State also has some other promising young talent returning next year, including running back Matt Dayes and defensive tackle Monty Nelson. It may take another year, but Doeren seems to be establishing a solid foundation in Raleigh, and Brissett should help jumpstart the offense next year.
Final Grade: C-

22. Brian Polian, Nevada
Before: 7-6 (4-4) After: 4-8 (3-5)

Polian had a tough assignment in his first year in Reno, as replacing coaching legend Chris Ault was no easy task. The Wolf Pack also played a brutal non-conference schedule, including road trips to UCLA and Florida State, which left little margin for error to get to a bowl. Nevada lost three games by a touchdown or less, but two of the Wolf Pack’s Mountain West victories came against Air Force and Hawaii, arguably the two worst teams in the conference. The non-conference schedule won’t get any easier next season, but Nevada will have a healthy Cody Fajardo at quarterback, which could be the difference between a winning record and another offseason at home.
Final Grade: C-

23. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech
Before: 9-3 (4-2) After: 4-8 (3-5)

With only five returning starters in 2013, the Bulldogs were expected to take a step back in the win column. Additionally, coaching transition is never easy, so Louisiana Tech had its hands full going into this season. Holtz had success at Connecticut and East Carolina but was fired at South Florida after a 16-21 mark in three years. The Bulldogs struggled in their first season in Conference USA, winning just four games and finishing the year on a three-game losing streak. Louisiana Tech’s four victories weren’t exactly against the best competition, with one coming against FCS opponent Lamar and the other three (FIU, Southern Miss and UTEP) versus teams who finished a combined 4-32. While expectations were low and transition was high in Ruston, Conference USA was not as strong as it has been in recent years. And the Bulldogs were pounded 30-10 by UTSA, a team playing just its third season of football. As his past history shows, Holtz is a capable coach. But why did things not work out at USF? Holtz had plenty of new faces stepping into key roles in 2013, but there was enough talent to expect a bowl. Holtz has plenty to prove in 2014.
Final Grade: D

24. Sonny Dykes, California
Before: 3-9 (2-7) After: 1-11 (0-9)

Dykes inherited a talented roster, but injuries and a challenging schedule prevented California from building any momentum in 2013. The Golden Bears’ only victory came against FCS opponent Portland State, while non-conference games against Ohio State and Northwestern were too much for a young, rebuilding team. Pac-12 play wasn’t kind to California either, as the Golden Bears had only one loss by 10 points or less. While injuries and a freshman quarterback are to blame for the one-win season, the defense was simply horrendous. The Golden Bears allowed 529.6 yards per game and opponents averaged a whopping 7.1 yards per play. Coordinator Andy Buh was demoted, and assistants Randy Stewart and Barry Sacks were fired in early January. California has talent and Dykes proved he can coach at Louisiana Tech. Improvement should be on the way for the Golden Bears in 2014, but it’s probably too much to ask this team to finish above .500.
Final Grade: D

25. Darrell Hazell, Purdue
Before: 6-7 (3-5) After: 1-11 (0-8)
After leading Kent State to 11 wins in 2012, Hazell was one of the top names in the coaching carousel last offseason. Purdue and Hazell seemed like a good fit, but the first year was a struggle. The Boilermakers’ only win was a six-point victory over Indiana State and just one Big Ten defeat was by fewer than 14 points. Despite the struggles in 2013, there is reason for optimism. Hazell’s first year at Kent State resulted in a 5-7 mark, but the Golden Flashes improved by six wins the next year. Purdue probably won’t make that big of a leap in 2014. However, quarterback Danny Etling gained valuable experience in 2013, and running back Akeem Hunt and receiver DeAngelo Yancy return next season. The defense suffers a few key losses, including cornerback Ricardo Allen and end Bruce Gaston. The Boilermakers took their lumps in 2013. But Hazell has some options at quarterback, and this team should show small progress in the win department in 2014.
Final Grade: D

26. Sean Kugler, UTEP
Before: 3-9 (2-6) After: 2-10 (1-7)

Kugler is a former UTEP offensive lineman but had never worked as a coordinator or head coach on the collegiate level until 2013. As expected, Kugler took his lumps with a rebuilding roster this year, which included an injury to quarterback Jameill Showers. The Miners defeated New Mexico State and FIU and also lost two games (New Mexico and Louisiana Tech) by a touchdown or less. With a full year from Showers, UTEP’s offense will be better in 2014. However, the defense has ranked ninth or worse in Conference USA in yards allowed for three consecutive seasons. The Miners should show some improvement next year, but this team needs a full year from Showers and talented running back Aaron Jones. 
Final Grade: D

27. Doug Martin, New Mexico State
Before: 1-11 After: 2-10

Before a one-year stint as Boston College’s play-caller in 2012, Martin served as New Mexico State’s offensive coordinator in 2011. And Martin returned to Las Cruces to work under former coach DeWayne Walker, but he left for the NFL and Martin was promoted to head coach. With a FBS Independent schedule, wins were difficult to come by for New Mexico State. The Aggies played road games at Texas and UCLA and hosted BCS opponents in Minnesota and Boston College. New Mexico State won two of its final five games, but it’s tough to judge Martin with an impossible schedule. More will be known about Martin’s ability to coach in Las Cruces after the Aggies have one season in the Sun Belt in 2014.
Final Grade: D

28. Paul Petrino, Idaho
Before: 1-11 (1-5) After: 1-11

Much like New Mexico State’s Doug Martin, Petrino was placed into an impossible situation in 2013. The Vandals were an FBS Independent and faced a challenging schedule with few opportunities for wins. Idaho played Northern Illinois tough (45-35) and beat Temple 26-24 in late September for its only win of 2013. However, as expected, there were some ugly blowouts. The Vandals were pounded by Florida State 80-14 and lost 42-0 to Washington State. It’s unfair to judge Petrino based off of 2013. But joining the Sun Belt next year should help Idaho get on an even playing field.
Final Grade: D

29. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan
Before: 4-8 (2-6) After: 1-11 (1-7)

Fleck brought energy and enthusiasm to Western Michigan. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate into victories. The Broncos were hit hard by injuries in the preseason, including a season-ending one to standout receiver Jaime Wilson. Western Michigan started the year with a 13-point loss to Michigan State, but a loss to Nicholls State quickly killed any momentum Fleck was hoping to build. The Broncos broke into the win column against UMass in late October and suffered back-to-back losses to Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan by a combined eight points. Western Michigan seemed to play better at the end of the season, and Fleck is bringing in a solid recruiting class. While Fleck’s recruiting ability appears to be very good, he needs to translate that into more victories in 2014.
Final Grade: D

30. Todd Monken, Southern Miss
Before: 0-12 (0-8) After: 1-11 (1-7)

Southern Mississippi’s fall as a top C-USA football program has been swift and surprising. The Golden Eagles had 18 consecutive winning seasons from 1994-2011. But Southern Miss has won just two games over the last two years. Monken inherited a bare cupboard on offense, and a defense that ranked near the bottom of the nation in points allowed. A tough non-conference schedule – Nebraska, Arkansas and Boise State – didn’t allow the Golden Eagles to get off to a good start. And this program struggled until late in the year before defeating UAB 62-27 in its final game. Monken has a lot of work on his plate this offseason, but Southern Miss may have found a quarterback in Nick Mullens and most of the starting lineup will return intact next year. Expect more improvement from Monken’s team in 2014.
Final Grade: D-

31. Ron Turner, FIU
Before: 3-9 (2-6) After: 1-11 (1-7)

Turner was a questionable hire for FIU. The former Illinois coach went 35-57 in his previous stint with the Fighting Illini and had only two winning seasons in eight years in Champaign. Another problem with Turner was his lack of ties to the Florida high school scene. Although FIU isn’t going to dominate in-state recruiting, it’s important for the program to keep recruits at home, instead of going to other Conference USA teams. Turner inherited a team short on returning starters, and the Panthers won only one game in 2013 – a 24-23 victory over Southern Miss. However, FIU was largely uncompetitive for the rest of the season, and the Panthers lost 34-13 to Bethune-Cookman. Turner is an odd fit at FIU, and he needs to show major progress in 2014.
Final Grade: F

Teaser:
Grading College Football's First-Year Coaching Hires for 2013
Post date: Thursday, January 9, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/breaking-down-college-basketballs-last-five-undefeated-teams
Body:

Let’s start with this: An undefeated season in college basketball is extremely, extremely unlikely.

So much so, we’re about ready to call matching Indiana’s 32-0 season from 1975-76 impossible.

Five teams remain in the hunt, though, and that’s enough for fans to dream of the possibility of an unblemished season. We’re not here to squash those hopes as much to bring a dose of reality for the last five undefeated teams in college basketball.

These are all fine teams with opportunities to finish with impressive records and deep runs in the NCAA Tournament, but odds are, a loss is coming.

If you're just catching up, here's how each team has come this far and its concerns going forward. We also included our basketball staff picks for when each of the final five will, finally, learn the agony of defeat.

Breaking Down the Last Undefeated Teams in 2013-14

Arizona (15-0, 2-0 Pac-12)
Why Arizona is undefeated: The Wildcats are among the best defensive teams in the country, even if you take away the absurd game against Washington State. Arizona held Washington State (a bad team without its leading scorer, to boot) to 25 points and 20 percent shooting, including seven points in the first half. Opponents shoot 40.1 percent from 2-point range against the Wildcats and 28.2 percent from 3, both in the top 10 nationally. Aaron Gordon is one of the nation’s top freshmen, but unlike the rookies at Kentucky and Kansas, he has a few veterans around him, chiefly guard Nick Johnson. Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell (3.2 assist-to-turnover ratio) has become the ideal point guard for a team with plenty of weapons.

Why Arizona won’t stay that way: The Pac-12 may be the toughest conference this season, and Arizona will play all but the lackluster Washington schools twice. That means road trips to face veteran teams at UCLA, Oregon and Colorado. The latter two are in the top 20, and the Bruins might not be too far off. Each school has the top-tier players who can go head to head with Arizona.

When will Arizona lose its first game?
David Fox: Jan. 9 at UCLA
Braden Gall: Feb. 1 at Cal
Mitch Light: Feb. 22 at Colorado

Iowa State (14-0, 2-0)
Why Iowa State is undefeated: In what seems to be the perfect match between a transfer and a school, Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane took his statsheet-stuffing ability to Iowa State. He’s turned the Cyclones from NCAA Tournament contender into a Big 12 title possibility. As Iowa State pulled away from Baylor on Tuesday, Kane had 30 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and five steals against another Big 12 championship contender. Georges Niang, Melvin Ejim and Dustin Hogue are a dangerous trio of 6-6/6-7 forwards.

Why Iowa State won’t stay that way: Iowa State doesn’t have a lot of big bodies in the frontcourt, which limits the Cyclones around the basket. Bigger lineups for Kansas and Texas could be matchup problems.

When will Iowa State lose its first game?
David Fox: Jan. 18 at Texas
Braden Gall: Jan. 18 at Texas
Mitch Light: Jan. 29 at Kansas

Syracuse (15-0, 2-0)
Why Syracuse is undefeated: Freshman Tyler Ennis has taken over the point guard to a degree few expected, even for a five-star recruit. Ennis has been a key set-up man for ACC player of the year contender C.J. Fair and even more important has been careful with the ball. The rookie hasn’t had more than two turnovers in a game all season. Jeremi Grant has also taken the next step Jim Boeheim needed. Grant was a role payer on last year’s Final Four team and now averages 12.3 points and 6.1 rebounds. Syracuse is third nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom.com.

Why Syracuse won’t stay that way: The ACC schedule. If Syracuse gets to late February undefeated, the Orange will have a three-game road swing through the heart of the ACC — or what the ACC used to be. Syracuse will visit Duke (Feb. 22), Maryland (Feb. 24) and Virginia (March 1).

When will Syracuse lose its first game?
David Fox: Feb. 12 at Pittsburgh
Braden Gall: Feb. 12 at Pittsburgh
Mitch Light: Feb. 22 at Duke

Wichita State (16-0, 3-0 Missouri Valley)
Why Wichita State is undefeated: In part, at least, the schedule. With key players from the Final Four team, the Shockers had trouble getting games non-conference games this year. Still, Wichita State managed to play BYU, Saint Louis, Tennessee and Alabama and win them all. Only the game against the Volunteers was at home. Don’t disregard the roster at the expense of the schedule, though. This team may better than last year’s. Fred VanVleet has assumed point guard duties as well as coach Gregg Marshall could have hoped. Ron Baker has shown he’s capable of doing over the course of the entire season what he did in the NCAA Tournament.

Why Wichita State won’t stay that way: Because going undefeated is tough, right? Without Creighton in the Missouri Valley, Wichita State’s toughest league games will be back-to-back road trips against Indiana State (Feb. 5) and Northern Iowa (Feb. 8)

When will Wichita State lose its first game?
David Fox: Missouri Valley Tournament
Braden Gall: Jan. 25 at Drake
Mitch Light: Feb. 5 at Indiana State

Wisconsin (16-0, 3-0 Big Ten)
Why Wisconsin is undefeated: Coach Bo Ryan has a system and he sticks to it. The Badgers are ranked in the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency on KenPom.com — a trait that’s usually a prerequisite to winning the national championship. Sam Dekker has improved from last season, mainly by playing closer to the basket. Frank Kaminsky has cooled since his 43-point outburst against North Dakota on Nov. 19, but he’s been a consistent contributor.

Why Wisconsin won’t stay that way: The Big Ten is tough, but Wisconsin lucks out by missing road trips to Michigan State and Ohio State. The Badgers had their toughest test against Iowa on Sunday, a game Wisconsin may have lost if not for the free throws as a result of coach Fran McCaffery’s ejection. Dekker and Kaminsky were a combined 5 of 20 from the field as the Hawkeyes grabbed 16 offensive rebounds.

When will Wisconsin lose its first game?
David Fox: Jan. 14 at Indiana
Braden Gall: Jan. 22 at Minnesota
Mitch Light: Jan. 14 at Indiana

Teaser:
Breaking Down College Basketball's Last Five Undefeated Teams
Post date: Thursday, January 9, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /mlb/players-who-should-have-been-2014-baseball-hall-fame-inductees
Body:

Three players were elected to the Hall of Fame today, and I couldn’t disagree with any of the three choices. Certainly, Greg Maddux is a no-brainer. Tom Glavine is not far behind. I wouldn’t have been shocked had Frank Thomas not been elected, but I wholeheartedly agree that he is a Hall of Famer.

But only three?

I believe the Hall of Fame should maintain incredibly high standards and only the elite should be included. However, with the loaded ballot, I was surprised there weren’t four.

I thought Craig Biggio would be elected. I think he should have been. In fact, I thought he had a better shot than Thomas. He logged more than 3,000 hits while playing two demanding positions. He was an All-Star as both a catcher and second baseman. Of all the hitters on the ballot this year, only Barry Bonds scored more runs and only Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro had more total bases and more runs produced than Biggio. And no hitter on the ballot had more hits or doubles. I suspect the long-time Astro will get elected next year after falling two votes shy.

I am not surprised that Jack Morris did not gain election, but I think he should have. I know his 3.90 ERA is high by Hall standards and I appreciate voters being judicious. However, during his era, no pitcher in the American League was more feared by hitters than the righthander. His Hall of Fame fate is now in the veterans committee’s hands.

Also on my ballot
Barry Bonds wasn't inducted into the 2014 Baseball Hall of FameBarry Bonds
First of all, there’s no need to make an on-the-field argument, but here goes anyway: Just about any stat or metric you want to use for the players currently on the Hall of Fame ballot will see Bonds’ name at the top of the list. The few that he’s not No. 1 include hits (3rd), average (8th), doubles (2nd) and steals (2nd). Clearly, his performance is among the best of all-time. The only question for some is how much of that performance was artificially enhanced. The answer is that we really don’t know. Furthermore, during Bonds’ stellar career, not once did MLB or its players punish, or threaten to punish, him for breaking baseball’s rules. Not once.

Roger Clemens
I don’t understand how any voter could have Clemens on their ballot and not Bonds, and vice versa. They are either judged solely on their on-the-field performance, or disqualified by their PED use. But there had to have been a few voters that accept Clemens but do not accept Bonds as a Hall of Famer.
 
Mike Mussina
For a pitcher who spent his entire career in the brutal American League East, Mussina posted incredible numbers. He was the ultimate professional who rarely missed starts. For 17 seasons, he averaged 31 starts per season. He won 20 games only once, but won 17 or more eight times. In the expansion era (1961-present), only nine pitchers have a better ERA+ than Mussina. The stat somewhat levels the playing field across eras because it compares a pitcher’s ERA to the league average and makes adjustments for ballparks. And among the nine better are four Hall of Famers and Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, John Smoltz and Kevin Brown.

Tim Raines
Rock Raines is on my ballot because he was consistently one of the most feared offensive weapons throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. He toiled primarily in obscurity in Montreal, and was the No. 1 victim of owners’ collusion in 1987. The deeper into sabermetrics you go, the better Raines looks.

Just off my ballot

Jeff Bagwell
Edgar Martinez
Mike Piazza
Lee Smith
Curt Schilling
Alan Trammell


Parting Shots

It is crystal clear that the current roster of voters doesn’t appreciate the inflated stats of the Steroid Era. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens received less support this year than last year. Their vote totals combined wouldn’t be enough to gain election. Also notable is that Rafael Palmeiro, with 3,020 hits, 569 home runs, 1,835 RBIs and 1,663 runs didn’t garner enough votes to stay on the ballot. Those are numbers that only Willie Mays and Hank Aaron can match.

Quite frankly, I wouldn’t have Palmeiro on my ballot either. Aside from the positive PED test, his stats were terribly hollow. His lifetime .288 average in an offensive era is rather pedestrian. But with those numbers, I’m amazed that only 25 voters gave him the nod.

These Guys Got Votes?

In all of their wisdom, somehow a few voters managed to check the boxes for Kenny Rogers, Armando Benitez and — get this — Jacque Jones. Really?

A Look Ahead

Next year we could see an even larger class of players elected. I would think that Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio will get the call. Many believe that Pedro Martinez will join them as well. And Mike Piazza is not that far away having received votes on 62.2 percent of this year’s ballots in an overly crowded field.

Veterans Committee

Here’s hoping that Jack Morris gains favor with the veterans committee over the years. And I believe that the committee, comprised primarily of former players, will look less favorably on PED use than the writers do.
 

Teaser:
I believe the Hall of Fame should maintain incredibly high standards and only the elite should be included. However, with the loaded ballot, I was surprised there weren’t four players elected to the Hall this year.
Post date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 17:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-college-basketball-podcast-talking-2014
Body:

The 2014 season is over, so it’s time to start talking a little 2014 football.
 
First, hosts Braden Gall and David Fox put Florida State’s championship into perspective. The question: Did Jameis Winston just complete the best freshman season in college football history? Or does the nod go to Johnny Manziel, Adrian Peterson or Maurice Clarrett.

Then, they break down some of the coaching news. Charlie Strong is the guy at Texas, but not everyone is on the bandwagon. Penn State thought they were close to nabbing James Franklin, but the Nittany Lions are in limbo. Does Franklin have it better in Nashville?

And then moving on to 2014, Fox and Gall go through the major conferences and discuss their storylines to watch in the upcoming months from off-field issues, recruiting, new coaches and personnel.

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @DavidFox615 or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 College Football Podcast: Talking 2014
Post date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 16:29
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/texas-am-qb-johnny-manziel-declares-nfl-draft
Body:

In a move that should surprise no one, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has decided to declare for the NFL Draft.

Manziel leaves College Station after just two years with the Aggies. He claimed the Heisman Trophy in 2012 by throwing for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,410 yards and 21 scores.

Manziel improved as a passer in 2013, throwing for 4,114 yards and 37 scores. And as expected, his rushing numbers regressed slightly, adding only 759 yards on the ground.

Texas A&M will have a tough time replacing Manziel, but sophomore Kenny Hill and incoming freshman Kyle Allen are two potential stars in College Station.

Manziel is expected to be a first-round draft pick this April.

Teaser:
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel Declares for NFL Draft
Post date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 15:39
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-8-2014
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 8.

• Paulina Gretzky accompanied Dustin Johnson on his golf trip to Hawaii. Naturally, Instagram has the evidence.

Actress Michelle Rodriguez got hammered with a lady friend at the Knicks game last night. The New York Post had some fun with it. Seems like a good excuse to link to this collection of sloppy fan drunkenness.

• With Louisville's new flirtation with Bobby Petrino, Greg Doyel looks at other second acts. It's a mixed bag.

• The worst part of Yasiel Puig's recent arrest for driving 110 mph? His choice of attire.

Aaron Craft may be easy to hate, but he's hard not to respect.

Here's a gallery of butchered names on Starbucks cups. Maybe a literacy test is in order before hiring a barista.

• It's Hall of Fame announcement day. Here's a sneak peek at what to expect.

• Greg Maddux won't be a unanimous Hall of Famer, but he should be. Here's a nice piece on the Professor as he coasts into Cooperstown.

Trent Dilfer looked into Jameis Winston's eyes in 2011 and predicted his future. Kinda spooky.

• Cultures collide: A dude in a Red Sox cap catches a ball at a cricket match in New Zealand, wins $83K.

• Dennis Rodman serenaded best bud and psychotic despot Kim Jong Un on his birthday. Enjoy.

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 10:48
Path: /college-football/ranking-16-bcs-national-championship-games
Body:

Fans and media critics alike toss around words like “greatest” and “all-time” fairly liberally. I am not immune from this type of hyperbole, as I’ve been known to wax poetically about most, best or awesome-est games, players, teams, moments or endings in the long and storied history of college football.

But Florida State’s win over Auburn on Monday night in the most gorgeous of competitive settings is one of the greatest football games that has ever been played on any level.

Historic storylines, powerful and unique personalities, decorated elite talent and unforgettable dramatics make the 16th and final BCS National Championship Game completely and, for some, painfully unforgettable.

But was it the best BCS National Championship Game? Athlon says goodbye to the BCS by ranking the 16 title-deciding games:

1. (2) Texas 41, (1) USC 38 (2005)
Few argue that Vince Young’s second straight Rose Bowl MVP is one of the most remarkable individual performances by any player in any sport. He set the BCS NCG record with 200 yards rushing and NCG record for total offense with 476 yards. He also set a NCG record with 75 percent passing (30-of-40) and scored three total touchdowns. USC and Texas went back and forth with three consecutive lead-changing scores in the third quarter before the Trojans opened up a 12-point lead with just six minutes to play. Young took over from there and led two touchdown drives, capping both with his own rushing touchdowns. The two-time defending champion Trojans were toppled by the most unstoppable player of the BCS Era.

2. (1) Florida State 34, (2) Auburn 31 (2013)
Gus Malzahn’s team set the tempo and tone for most of the game, taking a commanding 21-3 lead late in the second quarter. But Jameis Winston slowly led his team back to within one point early in the fourth quarter (21-20). After Auburn extended the lead with a field goal, Florida State’s special teams — which were remarkable all game — made the biggest play of the game when Kermit Whitfield scored on the ensuring kickoff from his own goal line. Not to be outdone, Tre Mason led the Tigers back to the lead with 1:19 to play. The Heisman winner then built his legacy with a seven-play, 80-yard drive that will be a part of FSU lore forever. Winston hit Kelvin Benjamin in the end zone with 19 seconds left in the game to shock the SEC powerhouse. There were three lead changes in the final 4:31.

3. (2) Ohio State 31, (1) Miami 24 (OT, 2002)
Marred by what some (not this guy) consider a bad pass interference penalty, upstart and huge underdog Ohio State pulled off one of the most improbable wins in BCS history. Maurice Clarett scored the game-winning touchdown in the second overtime — the only BCS NCG to go to extra time — to win the Buckeyes' first national title since 1968. The Buckeyes' defense held the vaunted Miami offense to just 17 points in regulation and just 369 yards of offense while forcing five Canes turnovers.

4. (1) Auburn 22, (2) Oregon 19 (2010)
With the Heisman Trophy winner on one side and the nation’s top offense on the other, it was a bit of a shocker that both defenses played so well in this low-scoring dramatic affair. Darron Thomas was a lone bright spot for the Ducks with 363 yards and two touchdowns, leading Oregon to the game-tying touchdown with just 2:33 left in the game. Game MVP Michael Dyer, who rushed for 143 yards, had the signature run in the game’s final drive, pirouetting into BCS lore and setting up the game-winning field goal with no time remaining.

5. (2) Florida 24, (1) Oklahoma 14 (2008)
The only BCS title game to be tied at halftime, two Heisman Trophy winners battled in what was one of the most physical title games of the BCS Era. Percy Harvin was the top playmaker for Tim Tebow and Florida, touching the ball 14 times for 171 yards and a score. Early in the fourth quarter, though, Sam Bradford connected with Jermaine Greshman from 11 yards out to tie the game. Tebow then worked his magic by leading two scoring drives to give the Gators a 10-point NCG victory. The Gators' defense held the ’08 Heisman winner (Bradford) to just 26-of-41 passing, 256 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

6. (1) Florida State 46, (2) Virginia Tech 29 (1999)
The largest crowd in Superdome history at the time (79,280) witnessed elite athletes making spectacular plays in one of the most high-scoring and entertaining BCS title bouts — despite the 17-point final margin. Florida State led 28-14 at halftime before the great Michael Vick single-handedly took the lead for Tech with 15 unanswered third-quarter points. However, entering the final period trailing 29-28, Florida State turned to their superstar wide receiver Peter Warrick. The game’s MVP caught six passes for 163 yards and two amazing touchdowns while also returning a punt 59 yards for a touchdown. The Seminoles scored 18 unanswered points of their own in the fourth quarter to win Bobby Bowden’s second national championship. Vick finished with 225 yards passing and 97 rushing.

7. (1) Tennessee 23, (2) Florida State 16 (1998)
The first BCS title game featured a lot defense from two teams stacked with NFL talent on that side of the ball. These two teams combined for seven fumbles and 21 penalties but were in a tight five-point game into the fourth quarter. But then Tee Martin threw arguably the biggest pass in Vols history down the sideline where Peerless Price streaked into the end zone for a 79-yard touchdown. The score put Tennessee up for good but Phil Fulmer and Big Orange nation needed a critical Steven Johnson interception in the final two minutes to seal the seven-point win.

8. (1) Oklahoma 13, (2) Florida State 2 (2000)
Heisman winner Chris Weinke and the defending champion Seminoles entered this NCG a decided favorite. But the upstart Sooners defense, led by second-year head coach Bob Stoops, held the FSU offense to zero points and forced Weinke into 26 incompletions (51 attempts) and two interceptions. The Noles were 1-of-15 on third down and Quentin Griffin scored a 10-yard touchdown to break open a 6-0 fourth-quarter lead for the Sooners. Oklahoma claimed its first national title since 1985 and Miami native Torrance Marshall was named the game’s MVP.

9. (2) LSU 21, (1) Oklahoma 14 (2003)
The highest-scoring team in the nation, Oklahoma, was held largely in check by a Nick Saban-coached defense. LSU held the Sooners to an absurdly low 154 yards of total offense. Heisman winner Jason White was atrocious, throwing for 102 yards and two interceptions along with 24 incompletions (13-of-37). Oklahoma’s defense fought valiantly, allowing just 312 yards of offense and only 14 points to LSU's offense. Defensive lineman Marcus Spears made the play of the game early in the third quarter when he picked off White and rumbled 20 yards for the game-clinching touchdown. A fourth-quarter Sooner touchdown made the score look more respectable.

10. (1) Alabama 37, (2) Texas 21 (2009)
Early in the first quarter, Alabama knocked Texas quarterback Colt McCoy out of the game and the Tide never really looked back. Bama took a 24-6 halftime lead and let off the gas pedal in allowing backup Garrett Gilbert to throw two touchdown passes to cut the lead to 24-20. However, the Tide would not relent as it scored two touchdowns in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to pull away and secure the national title — it’s first since 1992. The two teams combined for 539 yards of total offense.

11. (2) LSU 38, (1) Ohio State 24 (2007)
Beanie Wells did his best to keep Ohio State in the game, rushing for 146 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. But it wasn’t enough for Ohio State to overcome the efficient play of LSU quarterback Matt Flynn and yet another loaded LSU defense. The Tigers, the only two-loss BCS champion, got four scoring strikes from their quarterback and forced three OSU turnovers to win their second national title in five years. Ohio State cut the lead to 14 (31-17) with two minutes to go in the third quarter but couldn’t muster any offense in the final frame.

12. (2) Alabama 21, (1) LSU 0 (2011)
LSU topped Bama 9-6 in early November in Tuscaloosa and beat Georgia in the SEC title game to enter the BCS title game with as impressive a 13-0 record as college football has ever seen. However, many still believe Alabama was the better team and the Crimson Tide’s record-setting defense completely dominated LSU. The Tigers finished with 92 total yards, five first downs and didn’t even cross midfield until there were eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. AJ McCarron announced his presence to the college football world by playing efficient and productive football against a loaded LSU defense, winning the game’s MVP award along the way.

13. (2) Florida 41, (1) Ohio State 14 (2006)
Ohio State was a heavy favorite and opened the game by scoring on the opening kickoff. However, the infamous Roy Hall jumped on Ted Ginn in the end zone and injured the OSU star playmaker, setting an ominous tone for the game on the first play. It was all Florida from there on out as the Gators' defense pressured Heisman winner Troy Smith all night. Florida scored 34 first-half points and didn’t allow a second-half point to Ohio State. Smith finished 4-of-14 for 35 yards and the OSU offense totaled 82 yards on the night. Urban Meyer hoisted what would be his first of two crystal footballs.

14. (1) Alabama 42, (1) Notre Dame 14 (2012)
The Crimson Tide entered the final game of the 2012 season as the defending champs and the heavy favorite over an unbeaten Fighting Irish squad. And Vegas was right as AJ McCarron and Eddie Lacy carved up what was a highly touted Notre Dame defense. McCarron finished with 264 yards and four touchdowns while Lacy took home MVP honors with 20 carries for 140 yards and a touchdown. Bama led 35-0 with less than five minutes to play in the third quarter.

15. (1) USC 55, (2) Oklahoma 19 (2004)
It was the greatest offensive performance of the BCS era. The USC Trojans completely dissected the Oklahoma Sooners to the tune of a then-BCS NCG record 525 yards and current record 55 points. Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart set a BCS NCG record with 365 yards passing and five touchdowns in the win. Oklahoma scored first to go up 7-0 but USC then went on a 55-3 run from the 4:27 mark of the first quarter through the 9:46 mark of the fourth quarter. Not even Auburn could have stopped this offense that year.

16. (1) Miami 37, (2) Nebraska 14 (2001)
Ken Dorsey threw three first half touchdowns as Miami took a commanding 34-0 halftime lead on overmatched Nebraska. The Huskers mustered two second-half touchdowns but the game was already over. Many believe this was the best team ever assembled in college football and their national title performance in the Rose Bowl did nothing to dispel the notion.

Teaser:
Ranking the 16 BCS National Championship Games
Post date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/early-look-top-25-college-football-games-2014
Body:


Tune in to the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast as our staff talks college football every week leading up to the 2014 season.
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The dust has barely settled on what was a truly magnificent ending to the BCS era. Not only in the national championship game performance by both Florida State and Auburn but also the rest of the BCS slate.

 

BCS executive director Bill Hancock could not have asked for a better capper to his beloved Bowl Championship Series. Now, college football moves into a new era of playoff football. Many believe that adding two extra teams to the playoff scenario at season’s end will take some of the luster off what most agree is the best regular season in sports.

That simply isn’t true. Only four of 125 teams will get compete in the playoff structure (for now) and so the battle to be in the top three percent (3.2 to be exact) of college football will still be as cutthroat as it has ever been.

The bottom line is still very straight forward for all college teams: Win all of your games and you will play for a national championship. And since it's never too early to look ahead to the 2014 season — which is 232 days away, by the way — Athlon has pinpointed the 25 games that will impact the first season of the College Football Playoff the most.

1. Stanford at Oregon (TBD)
For the first time in years, the SEC may not be the best league in the nation. And it has nothing to do with Florida State. The Pac-12 returns more elite talent than any other league and the winner of this game has gone on to win the last five conference titles. Stanford has won two straight over Oregon and the Ducks, something returning Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota won’t soon forget. This is likely two top five teams playing for a conference crown — or maybe more.

2. Auburn at Alabama (Nov. 29)
The juice of the Iron Bowl is electric every year but after what took place in 2013, all bets are off in this one. On the season’s final weekend the SEC West — and possible overall SEC — championship could hang in the balance once again between these two likely preseason top 10 teams. Bama must replace more than Auburn but still boasts the better overall roster — and the game is in Tuscaloosa this time around.

3. Alabama at LSU (Nov. 8)
The nation stops to watch when these two SEC behemoths collide every year. And while Bama pulled away from LSU in the final period this season, the Tigers expect to close the gap on the Tide this offseason. Both teams will feature new quarterbacks but both teams will carry national championship aspirations into the yearly bout of physicality to start November. And anytime Bama visits the Bayou, it’s must-see TV.

4. Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 29)
Many believe that the 2013 version of The Game was the best in the history of the long Big Ten rivalry. Now, the two move into the same division and a trip to the Big Ten title game could easily hang in the balance when these two get together in the Horseshoe at season’s end. Michigan is expected to be better next season while Ohio State should maintain national status quo.

5. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Nov. 29 or Dec. 6)
The Bedlam Series is one of the best rivalries in the nation and, much like the Iron Bowl, the ’13 version took it to another level. The Sooners crushed the Pokes' Big 12 and Fiesta Bowl hopes with one swift, last-minute drive. With Oklahoma the likely conference favorite next fall, Oklahoma State may have the chance to play the role of spoiler. This should once again feature two double-digit win teams with a potential Big 12 title on the line.

6. Ohio State at Michigan State (Nov. 8)
A rematch of the Big Ten title game could be the most important division game in the league next year. With Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State all landing in the Big Ten East Division, the round robin with these four college football blue bloods makes this division as intriguing as any in the nation. So when Urban Meyer goes on the road in early November, the reigning Big Ten champs should be ready for them in East Lansing.

7. Oklahoma vs. Texas (Oct. 11, Cotton Bowl)
Charlie Strong sent some not so subtle shots across the bow of the Big 12 during his introductory press conference, letting the rest of the league know he is coming into town six shooters blazing. Bob Stoops has made a living crushing the Longhorns and it falls to Strong to change that in his first Red River Rivalry. With the Crimson and Cream as the current preseason favorite, Strong knows he has a chance to upset the status quo in the Heartland in Year One.

8. Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 8)
The Sooners were embarrassed in Waco on a Thursday night this year and Stoops and company will be out for revenge at home this time around. The Sooners are a preseason top 10 team while Baylor is the top challenger in the Big 12 and could also be a preseason top 10 with Art Briles and Bryce Petty returning. Look for a dramatically more competitive game in 2014 than fans in Waco saw in ’13.

9. LSU at Auburn (Oct. 4)
The only game Auburn lost in the regular season was against LSU in Baton Rouge early in the year. The two Tigers will battle in Jordan-Hare early in the 2014 campaign as well, with SEC West supremacy likely on the line. Alabama still has a great shot to be the preseason pick in the division, so this game will probably determine who will be the top challenger to the Crimson Tide next fall.

10. USC at UCLA (TBD)
UCLA is likely a preseason top 10 team with the return of Brett Hundley at quarterback. USC, under new coach Steve Sarkisian, should have loads of momentum after a 10-win season in 2013 and could easily be a top 15 team heading into the season. These two are the top two picks in the Pac-12 South at the moment and the long-standing, intra-city rivalry should be more important than ever before in ’14.

Related: A Very Early College Football Preseason Top 25 for 2014

11. Michigan State at Oregon (Sept. 13)
No, you didn’t miss read that. The Spartans will visit the Ducks early in the season next year in what could be a Rose Bowl preview matchup. The Michigan State defense will be rebuilt to some degree but will be as salty as ever while the Oregon offense returns for another season of up-tempo dominance. These two have split in the only four times they have played, two home-and-homes in 1998-99 and 1979-80, with the home team winning all four.

12. Auburn at Georgia (Nov. 15)
It was one of the great games of the 2013 season and could once again be an important and electric showdown in 2014. Georgia is the preseason favorite in the East while Auburn is the defending SEC champs — and the Tigers have to go on the road in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. How much roster turnover Auburn must deal with remains to be seen, so this game could be a meeting of two top-10 teams should all the big names return.

13. Georgia at South Carolina (Sept. 14)
If the Dawgs are, in fact, the preseason pick in the SEC East, then South Carolina is likely the top challenger. And in 2014, the game is being played in Columbia — where UGA got hammered the last time it visited in 2012. Both teams are breaking in new full-time quarterbacks with limited experience, which makes the early season timing of this game that much more interesting for fans in the SEC.

14. Stanford at Washington (TBD)
This has been one of the best Pac-12 games of the year in each of the last two seasons. The Huskies have to replace some pieces but should be in great shape with new head coach Chris Petersen. Both teams are preseason top 20 squads with Stanford possibly cracking the top five. The Huskies won in Seattle two years ago and outplayed the Cardinal in Palo Alto this fall. This could be a critical and epically physical battle out West next fall.

15. UCLA at Arizona State (TBD)
It was a critical showdown that was one of the best Pac-12 games of the 2013 season and nothing should change next fall. Taylor Kelly and Brett Hundley will do battle for the third straight season in what is turning into an excellent offensive rivalry out West. The Pac-12 South could be determined when the Bruins head East into the desert.

16. USC at Stanford (TBD)
The Trojans pulled a dramatic and memorable upset in 2013 — which was only the latest in what has developed into one of the great modern Pac-12 rivalries. In 2014, however, the game could carry even more importance for both teams as USC must head North to Palo Alto. Each has eyes on the Pac-12 title game and this bout could play a role in determining home-field advantage in the conference championship game.

17. Georgia at Missouri (Oct. 11)
Missouri isn’t far behind the Bulldogs and Gamecocks when it comes to projecting the SEC East in 2014. And getting to host the Dawgs in Columbia could be pivotal in deciding if the Tigers can maintain their status atop the SEC East next season. Maty Mauk got plenty of playing time for the Tigers' offense this season and should be one of the SEC’s top passers next fall.

18. Stanford at Notre Dame (Oct. 4)
These two have a long and storied tradition of great games and big-time moments. See the last time the Cardinal went to South Bend (although, Stanford fans probably will want to avert their eyes). With Everett Golson back for the Irish, Brian Kelly could have Notre Dame back in contention for a major (formerly known as “BCS”) bowl bid.

19. LSU vs. Wisconsin (Aug. 30, Reliant Stadium)
The Tigers have eyes on returning to the national championship equation and Wisconsin is in desperate need of a signature regular season win over an elite non-conference opponent. If Gary Andersen and the Badgers want to be considered a national power, this type of showcase is as good an opportunity to prove it as they will ever have in Madison.

20. Oklahoma State vs. Florida State (Aug. 30, AT&T Stadium)
One of the great first weekend matchups will feature the defending national champions playing deep in the heart of Texas. The Cowboys are a fringe top 25 team but have eyes on returning to the top of the Big 12. An early strong showing (even in defeat) against the Noles could go a long way in proving that Mike Gundy’s program reloads rather than rebuilds.

21. Oregon at UCLA (TBD)
The Bruins had it rough in 2013, having to visit Oregon and Stanford in back-to-back games. Luck gives Jim Mora and his team a chance to win the league by hosting both the Ducks and Cardinal in Los Angeles in 2014. The Ducks come to town after boat-racing the Bruins in Eugene this season. A Mariota-Hundley matchup at quarterback could be a Heisman elimination game while also potentially deciding home field in the Pac-12 title game.

22. Stanford at UCLA (TBD)
Most everything said above about Oregon visiting UCLA applies to the Cardinal’s trip South to Westwood as well. UCLA lost by only two touchdowns to Stanford in 2013 but the game wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated, so revenge will be on the mind of Hundley and company when David Shaw's squad rolls into town.

23. Nebraska at Wisconsin (Nov. 15)
The Big Ten West is the easier division but two Big Reds will enter the season as the frontrunners to win the crown. Iowa will host both Wisconsin and Nebraska but this game is much more likely to determine the West Division representative in the Big Ten Championship Game in 2014. Each team has holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but have plenty of returning weaponry and could be preseason top 25 teams.

24. Missouri at South Carolina (Sept. 27)
The round robin in the SEC East may not be as dramatic or intense or important as that of the SEC West, but Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri will do battle all season long in 2014. South Carolina has the benefit of hosting both the Dawgs and the Tigers in Williams-Brice Stadium. Should Carolina win both of those games, the Gamecocks could easily be Atlanta-bound.

25. South Carolina at Auburn (Oct. 25)
As two of the better programs in the SEC, it feels strange that these two have only met twice in the regular season since 2006. But when they do meet, strange things happen. The Tigers knocked the 2011 Gamecocks out of the SEC title game and crushed the Gamecocks 56-17 in the title game in Atlanta in '10 — their second meeting that year. Steve Spurrier should be well aware that his Gamecocks have beaten the Tigers only once in school history — and that came in 1933.

The best of the rest:

26. Alabama at Ole Miss (Oct. 4)
27. Notre Dame at Florida State (Oct. 18)
28. Arizona State at USC (TBD)
29. Baylor at Texas (Oct. 4)
30. UCLA vs. Texas (Sept. 13, AT&T Stadium)
31. Notre Dame at Arizona State (Nov. 8)
32. Ole Miss at Auburn (Nov. 1)
33. Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 29)
34. Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 25)
35. Michigan at Michigan State (Oct. 25)

Other non-conference games to watch:

Auburn at Kansas State (Sept. 20)
Clemson at Georgia (Aug. 30)
Michigan at Notre Dame (Sept. 6)
Miami at Nebraska (Sept. 20)
Boise State vs. Ole Miss (Aug. 28, Georgia Dome)
Tennessee at Oklahoma (Sept. 13)
North Carolina at Notre Dame (Oct. 11)
Florida at Florida State (Nov. 29)
Virginia Tech at Ohio State (Sept. 6)
BYU at Texas (Sept. 6)

Teaser:
An Early Look at the Top 25 College Football Games of 2014
Post date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-5-teams-rise-2014
Body:

College football’s 2013 season is officially in the books. While kickoff for the 2014 season is still months away, it’s never too early to start looking at rosters, depth charts and coaching changes for teams poised to make a jump in the rankings next year.

Of course, with a few months to dissect rosters, opinions can change on teams. However, last year’s five teams on the rise article correctly pinpointed Arizona State as a team to watch in 2014.

So what teams have our attention for 2014? Iowa, Kansas State, Mississippi State, North Carolina and UCLA get the nod as our top five teams on the rise, but keep a close eye on Washington State, Texas Tech and Ole Miss.


College Football's Top Five Teams on the Rise for 2014

Iowa
After a 4-8 record in 2012, most thought Iowa would finish last in the Big Ten Legends Division and struggle just to be in contention for a bowl. However, the Hawkeyes righted the ship and finished second in the Legends Division with an 8-5 overall mark and a 5-3 record in Big Ten play in 2013. And Iowa was certainly battle-tested, as its five losses came against stiff competition – Northern Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and LSU. After a successful 2013, there should be plenty of optimism for Kirk Ferentz looking ahead to 2014. The Hawkeyes return quarterback Jake Rudock, and the rushing attack will be solid once again with Mark Weisman, Damon Bullock and Jordan Canzeri back next year. The offensive line loses two starters, but left tackle Brandon Scherff turned down the NFL for one more season at Iowa. The Hawkeyes finished 2013 ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten in total defense, and this unit should be solid even with the departure of three starters at linebacker. Even though Iowa’s roster has a few concerns, the schedule works significantly in its favor. The Hawkeyes have a tough non-conference road game at Pittsburgh, but they miss Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State in crossover play. And here’s one more factor in Iowa’s favor: Wisconsin and Nebraska come to Kinnick Stadium in 2014. 

Kansas State
With only 10 starters returning from a team that went 11-2 in 2012, it was no surprise the Wildcats took a step back in the win column in 2013. But the rest of the Big 12 should be on notice next season. As Bill Snyder has shown throughout his tenure in Manhattan, never count out Kansas State from a surprise run at the Big 12 title. The schedule sets up favorably for the Wildcats, with Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech visiting Manhattan. John Hubert must be replaced at running back, but quarterback Jake Waters is back, along with one of the nation’s top receivers in Tyler Lockett. Kansas State will have to replace both tackles and guard Keenan Taylor, but guard Cody Whitehair and center B.J. Finney is a good duo to build around for 2014. Despite returning only two starters on defense, the Wildcats finished third in the Big 12 in fewest yards allowed per game. This unit will have a few personnel losses, but end Ryan Mueller (11.5 sacks in 2013) is back, along with safety Dante Barnett and linebacker Jonathan Truman.

Mississippi State
Dan Mullen has guided the Bulldogs to a school-record four consecutive bowl games, but Mississippi State has never finished higher than fourth in the SEC West under his watch. That could change in 2014, as the Bulldogs return most of their core, which could be most-talented roster during Mullen’s tenure in Starkville. Guard Gabe Jackson and running back LaDarius Perkins must be replaced, but the return of quarterback Dak Prescott has the Bulldogs’ offense on the cusp of a breakout season. Prescott threw for 1,940 yards and 10 touchdowns, while leading the team with 829 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in 2013. Jackson and Perkins will be missed, but the supporting cast is far from bare. Josh Robinson, Nick Griffin and Ashton Shumpert return at running back, while the top five players in the receiving corps are back, including go-to target Jameon Lewis (64 receptions, 14.4 ypc). Mississippi State’s defense allowed 5.9 yards per play in 2013, so there’s some tightening up to do in the offseason. But there’s no shortage of building blocks for coordinator Geoff Collins. Freshman tackle Chris Jones emerged as a force in the middle, and he will anchor the defensive line in 2014. Linebacker Benardrick McKinney should be one of the best in the SEC, while all four starters return in the secondary. Mississippi State’s non-conference schedule should result in a 4-0 mark, with conference swing games against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Arkansas all in Starkville.

North Carolina
The Coastal Division is set to be one of the toughest conferences to predict in 2014, and a case could be made for six teams to be picked as the favorite. Miami is the very early pick, but don’t overlook North Carolina for the top spot. The Tar Heels started 1-5 but finished 6-1, with its only loss in the final seven games coming by two points to Coastal Division champ Duke. Larry Fedora enters his third season in Chapel Hill with plenty of offensive talent to run his spread attack, starting with quarterback Marquise Williams. The sophomore finished 2013 as North Carolina’s leading rusher (536 yards, six touchdowns), while throwing for 1,698 yards and 15 touchdowns. Williams should improve with a spring practice to work as the starter, but he could be pushed for the No. 1 spot by Mitch Trubisky or incoming freshman Caleb Henderson. T.J. Logan, A.J. Blue and Romar Morris is a solid trio at running back, and this group will get deeper with the addition of true freshman Elijah Hood. Even though tight end Eric Ebron will be missed, Quinshad Davis, Ryan Switzer and Bug Howard are a capable group of pass-catchers. The biggest question mark on offense will be the line, where tackle James Hurst and center Russell Bodine depart. With all of the offensive firepower returning for Fedora, scoring points shouldn’t be a problem. But the defense allowed 403.1 yards per game in 2013 and a few key pieces depart. End Kareem Martin, tackle Tim Jackson, cornerback Jabari Price and safety Tre Boston will be missed. The Tar Heels will have to play at Clemson, Duke and Miami next season, but Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech travel to Chapel Hill.

UCLA
Considering the Bruins are coming off a 10-3 mark in 2013, this team isn’t too far off the national radar. But with quarterback Brett Hundley returning next season, UCLA could make the jump into preseason top-10 consideration. The Bruins’ three losses in 2013 went to Oregon, Stanford and Arizona State – a combined 32-9 this season. UCLA won’t get many breaks in the schedule department next year, as a neutral site matchup against Texas is on tap, while Oregon, Stanford and Washington – arguably the top three teams in the Pac-12 North – are on the slate for 2014. While the schedule will be challenging, Hundley’s continued development, along with a young (and improving) supporting cast will help the Bruins’ offense be even more dangerous next year. The offensive line will miss Xavier Su’a-Filo, but the rest of the unit returns and should have more overall depth as a result of injuries in 2013. The defense loses a few key players in the front seven, including linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive lineman Cassius Marsh. But coach Jim Mora has stockpiled promising young talent, including linebacker Myles Jack and lineman Eddie Vanderdoes. Although the schedule will be a challenge, Oregon, Stanford and USC visit the Rose Bowl next year. Combine Hundley’s development with three crucial home games and UCLA could make a case as the favorite to win the Pac-12 in 2014.


Tune in to the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast as our staff talks college football every week leading up to the 2014 season.
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Three Others to Watch

Ole Miss
The Rebels have a challenging slate, featuring road games at Vanderbilt, Texas A&M and LSU. However, Ole Miss also has a few chances at an upset, including a home dates against Alabama and Auburn. Quarterback Bo Wallace should benefit from an offseason to rest his ailing shoulder, and the Rebels will get more contributions from their 2013 top-five recruiting class.

Texas Tech
The Red Raiders scored one of the biggest upsets of the bowl season by defeating Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl. Receiver Eric Ward and tight end Jace Amaro will be missed, but quarterback Davis Webb returns in 2014.

Washington State
Mike Leach’s team gave away a victory in the New Mexico Bowl, but the future looks bright for the Cougars. Quarterback Connor Halliday returns in 2014, while the receiving corps is stocked with weapons. Safety Deone Bucannon will be missed.

Teaser:
College Football's Top 5 Teams on the Rise for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: cbb-arena-ballots, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-arena-poll-all-12-individual-ballots
Body:

When folks are looking for a place to vacation, maybe they consult well-traveled friends. When they’re looking for a place to eat, maybe they ask their favorite foodie or consult Yelp.

The bottom line, when you’re looking for the best, it’s usually good to ask the experts, the true connoisseurs with experience and discerning tastes.

We’re taking the same approach to find the best college basketball venue in America.

Athlon Sports polled a dozen college basketball media members — both writers and broadcasters, professional journalists and former players and coaches — on their top arenas. We asked each to rank their top in terms of atmosphere, experience and amenities. In short, where would they recommend fans go to see a game.

Athlon tabulated all of their ballots, giving each No. 1 10 points all the way to one point for No. 10.

Some of the results were surprising. Some were not. While we expected Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse and Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium to be the top two, we were taken aback at how much separation there would be between those two and the rest of the field. Indeed, Kansas and Duke were the only arenas to appear on all 12 ballots.

We were pleased to see the diversity in picks, too, beyond just our top 10. Our panel picked arenas form coast to coast, stadiums from major conferences and the mid-major ranks, and venues old and new.

Slideshow: Images from the Top 10 Arenas

Here were the final results:
 

Complete Results: Athlon Sports’ College Basketball Arena Experts Poll
ArenaSchoolPoints (first-place)
1. Allen FieldhouseKansas115 (9)
2. Cameron Indoor StadiumDuke105 (1)
3. Hinkle FieldhouseButler58 (1)
4. Rupp ArenaKentucky50
5. Assembly HallIndiana49
6. Breslin CenterMichigan State37
7. The PalestraPenn/Philadelphia Big 535
8. Madison Square GardenSt. John's/Big East Tourney34 (1)
9. The PitNew Mexico31
10. Gallagher-Iba ArenaOklahoma State24
College Basketball Arena Experts Poll: Individual Ballots
Jay Bilas, ESPN
1. Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas
2. Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke
3. Breslin Center, Michigan State
4. Rupp Arena, Kentucky
5. Assembly Hall, Indiana
6. Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler
7. Kohl Center, Wisconsin
8. UD Arena, Dayton
9. Carrier Dome, Syracuse
10. Gallagher-Iba Arena, Oklahoma State
Rob Dauster, College Basketball Talk
1. Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas
2. Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke
3. Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler
4. Gallagher-Iba Arena, Oklahoma State
5. The Palestra, Penn
6. The Pit, New Mexico
7. Assembly Hall, Indiana
8. McKale Center, Arizona
9. Breslin Center, Michigan State
10. Rupp Arena, Kentucky
Mike DeCourcy, The Sporting News
1. Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas
2. Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke
3. Madison Square Garden
4. McKale Center, Arizona
5. Williams Arena, Minnesota
6. Rupp Arena, Kentucky
7. Breslin Center, Michigan State
8. Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler
9. Alaska Airlines Arena, Washington
10. Gallagher-Iba Arena, Oklahoma State
Pat Forde, Yahoo Sports
1. Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler
2. Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke
3. KFC Yum! Center, Louisville
4. Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas
5. Assembly Hall, Indiana
6. Dean Smith Center, North Carolina
7. Rupp Arena, Kentucky
8. Fifth Third Arena, Cincinnati
9. Breslin Center, Michigan State
10. Thompson Boling Arena, Tennessee
Fran Fraschilla, ESPN
1. Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas
2. Assembly Hall, Indiana
3. Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke
4. The Palestra, Penn
5. Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler
6. Carrier Dome, Syracuse
7. Breslin Center, Michigan State
8. The Pit, New Mexico
9. Hilton Coliseum, Iowa State
10. Gallagher-Iba Arena, Oklahoma State
Jeff Goodman, ESPN
1. Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas
2. Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke
3. Rupp Arena, Kentucky
4. McCarthey Athletic Center, Gonzaga
5. Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler
6. Viejas Arena, San Diego State
7. The Pit, New Mexico
8. Charles Koch Arena, Wichita State
9. Comcast Center, Maryland
10. CenturyLink Center, Creighton
Seth Greenberg, ESPN
1. Madison Square Garden
2. Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas
3. Rupp Arena, Kentucky
4. Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke
5. McKale Center, Arizona
6. Carrier Dome, Syracuse
7. Assembly Hall, Indiana
8. Breslin Center, Michigan State
9. The Pit, New mexico
10. Dean Smith Center, North Carolina
Jason King, Bleacher Report
1. Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas
2. Assembly Hall, Indiana
3. Cameron Indoor, Duke
4. Carrier Dome, Syracuse
5. The Pit, New Mexico
6. Gallagher-Iba Arena, Oklahoma State
7. McCarthey Athletic Center, Gonzaga
8. Rupp Arena, Kentucky
9. Charles Koch Arena, Wichita State
10. Kohl Center, Wisconsin
Dave LaMont, ESPN
1. Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas
2. Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke
3. Madison Square Garden
4. Charles Koch Arena, Wichita State
5. The Pit, New Mexico
6. Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler
7. The Palestra, Penn
8. Pauley Pavilion, UCLA
9. Assembly Hall, Indiana
10. Cole Field House, Maryland
Matt Norlander, CBSSports.com
1. Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke
2. Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas
3. Hinkle Fieldhouse, Duke
4. Assembly Hall, Indiana
5. The Palestra, Penn
6. Breslin Center, Michigan State
7. Gallagher-Iba Arena, Oklahoma State
8. The Pit, New Mexico
9. Carrier Dome, Syracuse
10. Rupp Arena, Kentucky
Eric Prisbell, USA Today
1. Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas
2. Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke
3. Madison Square Garden
4. Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler
5. Rupp Arena, Kentucky
6. Breslin Center, Michigan State
7. The Palestra, Penn
8. Kohl Center, Wisconsin
9. Assembly Hall, Indiana
10. Peterson Event Center, Pittsburgh
Dick “Hoops” Weiss, BlueStar Media
1. Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas
2. Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke
3. The Palestra, Penn
4. Rupp Arena, Kentucky
5. Joyce Center, Notre Dame
6. Gallagher-Iba Arena, Oklahoma State
7. Breslin Center, Michigan State
8. Dean Smith Center, North Carolina
9. The Pit, New Mexico
10. McCarthey Athletic Center, Gonzaga

Slideshow: Images from the Top 10 Arenas

Teaser:
College Basketball Arena Poll: All 12 Individual Ballots
Post date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/weekly-tipoff-who-nations-most-underrated-freshman
Body:

No question the top storyline in 2013-14 for the casual fan — and even a handful of NBA fans — is the glut of elite freshmen.

Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon have become appointment viewing. Anyone paying close attention has ideas of who is delivering and who has work to do to live up to the recruiting rankings and NBA Draft stock.

Anyone just paying attention to those four — and other notables like Tyler Ennis at Syracuse and Noah Vonleh at Indiana — is doing themselves a disservice.

Other teams have key freshmen playing major roles, and unlike the others, they might stick around for more than a season.

Weekly Tipoff: Who is the nation’s most underrated freshman?


David Fox: Kansas State has work to do on the offensive end of the court, but the Wildcats are trending in the right direction thanks to two under-the-radar freshmen. K-State is long way from the team that scored 58 points in a loss to Northern Colorado, 61 in a loss to Charlotte and 63 in a loss to Georgetown. Guard Marcus Foster leads Kansas State in scoring at 14 points per game and led the way in a win over Oklahoma State on Saturday. The key for Kansas State’s long-term prospects is point guard Jevon Thomas, who is still working his way into the lineup since becoming eligible in mid-December. In his first three games, Thomas has 15 assists and two turnovers as a part-time player. We know Kansas State will defend, but I’m looking forward to watching this backcourt on offense through Big 12 play.

Braden Gall: I will go with LSU's Jordan Mickey, a bouncy 6-foot-8, 225-pound wing from Arlington, Texas. The Tigers' athletic slasher wasn't a top 35 recruit like the bigger names in this historic freshman class, but few players nationally have has as big an impact on their team than Mickey. He leads all freshman with 11.3 combined rebounds and blocks per game (over Julius Randle) and is leading the Tigers in rebounding at 7.8 per game. Mickey is fifth nationally among freshman in scoring at 14.3 points per game and is nearly leading LSU in points as well (Johnny O'Bryant, 14.6). He debuted with a double-double in the close loss to UMass and has scored in double-digits in all but one career game thus far. If LSU (9-3) plays well enough to sneak into the tournament this year, Mickey will be a huge part of it.

Teaser:
Weekly Tipoff: Who is the nation's most underrated freshman?
Post date: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - 13:46
Path: /college-basketball/weekly-tipoff-which-preseason-top-10-team-has-most-concerns
Body:

The last few weeks have given a few big-name programs and coaches much to think about on the practice court.

Louisville is recalibrating without Chane Behanan for a team that already showed flaws that could prevent the Cardinals from defending their national title. Kansas’ youth has been exposed by a brutal non-conference schedule. Duke has struggled in the defensive end of the court even before losing to a shorthanded Notre Dame on the road.

The top 10 has been thrown into disarray in recent weeks to a point where it’s almost unrecognizable from the preseason rankings, but which of these teams have the most pressing long-term concerns?

It’s worth noting Michigan, a team that recently lost forward Mitch McGary to back surgery, was ranked in the preseason top 10 in the AP and coaches’ poll, but Athlon ranked the Wolverines No. 12. Both are obsolete at this point, but we decided to make our question more difficult by looking only at the Athlon preseason top 10.

Weekly Tipoff: Which Athlon preseason top 10 team has the most concerns?

David Fox: That’s a tough call mainly because the most likely candidates who were among Athlon’s preseason top 10 — Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, Kansas — have arguably top-five coaches and immense talent. Are you really going to bet against Calipari, Pitino, Krzyzewski and Self figuring things out by February? Another team, Oklahoma State, has depth issues, but I’m not going to bet against Marcus Smart, either. Of those five, I’m going to go with Louisville. The Cardinals didn’t look like a national championship team with forward Chane Behanan in the lineup, and now he’s gone for the year. The Cards entered AAC play without a signature win and without consistent contributions from the supporting cast of Wayne Blackshear, Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell. Guards Russ Smith and Chris Jones have been fantastic, but the Cardinals are forcing their guard duo to carry the entire load.

Braden Gall: Louisville has had some roster attrition since winning the national title, Kansas and Kentucky are extremely young and Michigan State has dealt with major injuries. But North Carolina has to be considered the biggest question mark in the preseason top 10. The Tar Heels are the most schizophrenic team in the nation — capable of winning at Michigan State and against both Louisville and Kentucky while also dysfunctional enough to lose to unranked Belmont, UAB, Texas and Wake Forest. This team has some talent, although not as much as Roy Williams' championship squads, so they are a clearcut top notch ACC team. But are the Tar Heels as good as Duke or Syracuse in that league? I am not ready to say that yet.

Teaser:
Weekly Tipoff: Which preseason top 10 team has the most concerns?
Post date: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - 13:34
Path: /college-football/can-florida-state-repeat-college-footballs-national-champs-2014
Body:

Florida State claimed its second BCS title with a 34-31 victory over Auburn. While the Seminoles still have plenty of time to celebrate their national championship, it’s never too early to look ahead to what could be in store next season.

Florida State is projected as the No. 1 team in Athlon’s very early top 25 for 2014. The Seminoles have a handful of players who could leave for the NFL, including standout defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, defensive end Mario Edwards and receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

Even if Florida State loses a couple of players to the draft, Jimbo Fisher has assembled a talented roster and plenty of help is on the way from the 2014 signing class.

Repeating as national champions is never easy. But the Seminoles have the pieces in place to win the 2015 College Football Playoff.

Who’s Back: QB Jameis Winston, RB Karlos Williams, WR Christian Green, WR Kermit Whitfield, RT Bobby Hart, DE Chris Casher, DE DeMarcus Walker, DE Eddie Goldman, DT Desmond Hollin, LB Terrance Smith, LB Reggie Northrup, LB E.J. Levenberry, LB Ukeme Eligwe, CB Ronald Darby, CB P.J. Williams, S Jalen Ramsey, S Nate Andrews, S Tyler Hunter, K Roberto Aguayo

Who’s Gone: WR Kenny Shaw, C Bryan Stork, DT Jacobbi McDaniel, DT Demonte McAllister, LB Christian Jones, LB Telvin Smith, LB Dan Hicks, CB Lamarcus Joyner, S Terrence Brooks

NFL Draft Early Entry Possibilities: RB Devonta Freeman, RB James Wilder Jr., WR Rashad Greene, WR Kelvin Benjamin, TE Nick O’Leary, OT Cameron Erving, OG Josue Matias, OG Tre Jackson, DE Mario Edwards Jr., DT Timmy Jernigan

2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 Oklahoma State (Arlington)
Sept. 6 The Citadel
Oct. 18 Notre Dame
Nov. 29 Florida

ACC Home Games: Boston College, Clemson, Virginia, Wake Forest
ACC Road Games: Louisville, Miami, NC State, Syracuse

Offensive Preview for 2014

Evaluating Florida State’s offense is tough right now. The Seminoles have a handful of players who could declare for the NFL Draft, including four starters on the offensive line and two of the top three receivers. It’s unlikely all of Florida State’s potential early entrants declare for the draft, but it’s a possibility Jimbo Fisher and his staff are aware of. Regardless of the early departures, the Seminoles return a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback (Jameis Winston), and a potential breakout player at running back in Karlos Williams. Winston will only get better with another offseason to work under Fisher and quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders and outstanding recruiting classes should help to replenish his weapons in time for 2014. The Seminoles are set to lose center Bryan Stork, but backup Austin Barron has played meaningful snaps and has five start in his career. Stork is a huge loss, but the offensive line – a place where there’s not a ton of depth – would be a bigger problem if Cameron Erving and guards Josue Matias and Tre Jackson declare for the NFL Draft.

Defensive Preview for 2014

Much like the offense, Florida State’s early evaluation on defense is tough due to potential departures for the draft. But even if the Seminoles lose nose guard Timmy Jernigan and end Mario Edwards Jr., this unit should still rank among the nation’s best. Linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner will be missed, but the Seminoles have promising talent waiting in the wings. Freshman safety/cornerback Jalen Ramsey is a future star in Tallahassee, and the linebacking corps could quickly reload with Matthew Thomas, E.J. Levenberry, Reggie Northrup and Ukeme Eligwe. Another name to watch on defense will be safety Nate Andrews. If Jernigan and Edwards Jr. declare for the draft, the defensive line would be the biggest concern for Fisher and coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, as two other seniors are already set to depart from the line (Demonte McAllister, Jacobbi McDaniel). However, much like some of the other units on this team, there is talent waiting to produce in the trenches – it’s just inexperienced.

Early outlook of playing for the national title in 2014

Very high. In fact, Florida State could begin 2014 as the No. 1 team in most preseason polls. The Seminoles could suffer a few defections to the NFL Draft, but talent development and recruiting should help to fill in the gaps. And in a scary proposition for defenses: Jameis Winston can only get better in 2014. The schedule is very manageable. Florida State’s toughest road game will be at Miami, with Clemson, Notre Dame and Florida visiting Tallahassee in 2014. And a matchup against Louisville doesn’t look as intimidating with Charlie Strong leaving for Texas and Teddy Bridgewater bolting for the NFL. It’s not easy making a return trip to the national championship game, but all of the pieces are in place for Florida State to win the college football playoff next year.

Teaser:
Can Florida State Repeat as College Football's National Champions in 2014?
Post date: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - 12:55
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/can-auburn-contend-national-title-2014
Body:

Auburn’s run at the national championship fell short in Pasadena, but the Tigers have nothing to be ashamed about after a 34-31 loss to Florida State. Auburn was a heavy underdog to the Seminoles, yet managed to lead 21-10 at halftime and held a small advantage with just over a minute to go.

The Tigers were one of the most-improved teams in the nation this season, rebounding from a 3-9 record to an appearance in the National Championship.

With Gus Malzahn at the helm, Auburn isn’t going anywhere in the national landscape. The Tigers return most of their core from 2013, including quarterback Nick Marshall, who should be improved with another year to work under Malzahn. Running back Tre Mason and left tackle Greg Robinson could declare for the NFL Draft, which would be a huge blow for the offense.

Auburn could be the favorite to win the SEC next season, but Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, LSU and South Carolina will be in the mix. Winning 12 games and an appearance in the national title game was no fluke. The Tigers could be one of the top-five teams in most preseason polls next season.

Who’s Back: QB Nick Marshall, RB Cameron Artis-Payne, RB Corey Grant, WR Sammie Coates, WR Ricardo Louis, LG Alex Kozan, RG Chad Slade, RT Avery Young, DE Carl Lawson, DT Montravius Adams, DE Ladarius Owens, DE Elijah Daniel, LB Cassanova McKinzy, LB/S Robenson Therezie, CB Jonathon Mincy, S Jermaine Whitehead

Who’s Gone: FB Jay Prosch, DE Dee Ford, DT Nosa Eguae, LB Jake Holland, CB Chris Davis, S Ryan Smith, K Cody Parkey, P Steven Clark

NFL Draft Early Entry Possibilities: RB Tre Mason, OT Greg Robinson, C Reese Dismukes

2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 Arkansas
Sept. 6 San Jose State
Sept. 20 at Kansas State
Sept. 27 Louisiana Tech
Oct. 4 LSU
Oct. 11 at Mississippi State
Oct. 25 South Carolina
Nov. 1 at Ole Miss
Nov. 8 Texas A&M
Nov. 15 at Georgia
Nov. 22 Samford
Nov. 29 at Alabama

Offensive Preview for 2014

One word: Loaded. And this unit could get even deeper if running back Tre Mason and offensive linemen Reese Dismukes and Greg Robinson return instead of exploring NFL options. Quarterback Nick Marshall should improve as a passer with another offseason to work under coach Gus Malzahn and coordinator Rhett Lashlee. A receiving corps that expects to return all of its key performers from 2013, including Ricardo Louis, Quan Bray and Sammie Coates, will help Marshall’s development. Top junior college prospect D’haquille Williams will also fight for time in the receiving corps. Even if Mason leaves, there’s plenty of talent at running back. Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant are effective options, and Marshall can pickup some of the slack on the ground. If Robinson and Dismukes return up front, the Tigers could have the best offensive line in the nation in 2014.

Defensive Preview for 2014

While Auburn’s offense will be one of the best in the nation, its defense still has some work to do. The Tigers allowed 5.9 yards per play in the regular season and gave up at least 20 points in each of their final five games. Ellis Johnson is an excellent coordinator, so this unit should see some improvement from being in the same scheme for another season. The defensive line must replace end Dee Ford and tackle Nosa Eguae, but talent isn’t an issue. Elijah Daniel, Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams played as true freshmen and will benefit from another offseason in a college weight room. Expect all three to be impact players in 2014. Jake Holland departs at linebacker, but Cassanova McKinzy and hybrid linebacker/safety Robenson Therezie form a solid duo. And Justin Garrett will return to the lineup after missing 2013 due to injury. The secondary loses cornerback Chris Davis and safety Ryan Smith, and this unit should be the biggest area of concern for Johnson in spring practice.

Early outlook of playing for the national title in 2014

Very high. College football’s new playoff postseason format has added an extra curveball to determine a national champion, but Auburn should be an easy top-10 preseason selection. The Tigers have an improving quarterback in Nick Marshall, and even if Mason goes to the NFL, there’s plenty of talent in the supporting cast. Auburn has to improve on defense, but a promising trio of sophomores on the defensive line is a good place to start reloading on that side of the ball. If there’s something working against Auburn and its hopes to play for the national title once again, the schedule could be the one area to focus. The Tigers caught a few breaks to get to Pasadena in 2013 and those breaks could go the other way in 2014. Auburn has to play at Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi State and Ole Miss, and there’s a trip to Kansas State in non-conference action. The Tigers could have more overall talent on the roster next year. But repeating in the SEC is never easy. The last time a team won back-to-back titles in the SEC? Alabama in 2008-09. With the SEC East facing a lot of uncertainty, it would not be a surprise if Alabama and Auburn are once again the top two teams from the SEC next year.

Teaser:
Can Auburn Contend for a National Title in 2014?
Post date: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - 12:55
All taxonomy terms: Jason Dufner, Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Golf
Path: /golf/5-amazing-stats-hyundai-tournament-champions
Body:

It's time to give Zach Johnson his due. The diminutive Iowan is on his way to building a Hall of Fame resume that added another entry yesterday with his win in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Johnson fended off a strong field of 2013 champions (although Tiger and Phil were conspicuous in their absence) with a stellar final-round 66 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua. Putting the lie to the notion that the sprawling layout is best suited for bombers, the short-hitting Johnson "picked it apart" (his words) in getting to 19-under despite a driving average of 267.1 that ranked 23rd in the field.

Here are some statistical highlights of Johnson's weekend in Paradise:

11 As he starts his 11th season on the PGA Tour, Johnson now has 11 career victories. Since his rookie season of 2004, only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh have more Tour wins.

8 Of Johnson's 11 wins, eight have been of the come-from-behind variety. Johnson started the day two strokes behind co-leaders Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Webb Simpson.

3 Johnson won for the third time in his last six starts, adding the Hyundai to his wins at the BMW and at the unofficial Northwestern Mutual World Challenge late in 2013.

7 Johnson moves up to a career-high seventh in the Official World Golf Ranking. He's also seventh in FedExCup points on the young season.

1932 Runner-up Jordan Spieth, who finished a stroke back, was trying to become the youngest player with two wins on the PGA Tour since Ralph Guldahl in 1932.

Dufnering in Paradise

Jason Dufner didn't win, finishing three shots behind Johnson at 15-under, but he did provide a final-round highlight, draining a 58-foot eagle putt in typically low-key style.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - 11:11
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-7-2014
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 7.

Lindsey Vonn will not be competing in Sochi because of a knee injury. There goes one bullet in the NBC hype chamber. Oh, well. She's probably more famous for being Tiger's girlfriend and for looking like this than her skiing, anyway.

 

• So long, college football. We'll miss you. And you gave us a great final act — although it could have been even more insane. Like, Iron Bowl insane.

 

Enjoy these eight great images from a great night for everyone except the SEC.

 

AJ McCarron's mom was not overly impressed with Jameis Winston's postgame interview. Judge for yourself. To be fair, those things are never exactly the Gettysburg Address.

 

Brent Musberger got last night's title game broadcast off to a rollicking start by forgetting who he was. Must have been trying to spot Jen Sterger in the crowd. Yep, she was there, dressed like a cowgirl.

 

• So the season wasn't a total loss for the Southeastern Conference. They'll have to settle for seven teams in the final AP Top 25.

 

• Dennis Rodman's role as U.S. cultural ambassador to North Korea took an angry turn when the Worm stormed out of an interview with CNN. Apparently Rodman's tired of defending his star-crossed bromance with squatty dictator Kim Jong Un.

 

• In case you gave up on the BCS National Championship game, here are the video highlights of the frantic final minutes.

 

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - 10:37
Path: /college-football/bcs-era-ranking-16-bcs-national-champions
Body:

The BCS is dead. After 16 years of picking a two-team tournament, the Bowl Championship Series took its final breath in the form of a second BCS championship for Florida State. The Noles won one of the greatest college games played in a 34-31 final version of the BCS title.

It was easy to hate the BCS and much more difficult to sing its praises. However, the Bowl Championship Series was a huge upgrade and improvement over the previous championship system where No. 1 and No. 2 weren’t even guaranteed to play.

Were there some controversial decisions? Certainly, Auburn fans in 2004 or Ohio State fans in 1998 might have had a beef with the BCS’ final decision. But most have to agree that the BCS got it right pretty much every time.

But where do these Seminoles rank against the past BCS champions? Athlon Sports ranks the 2013 national champions against the previous 15 Crystal Ball holders.

"First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks

1. Miami Hurricanes, 2001 (12-0, 7-0)
Head Coach: Larry Coker
Key Stats: No. 3 in nation in scoring offense (42.7 ppg), no. 1 in scoring defense (9.8 ppg); average margin of victory 33.2 points per game
Award Winners: Larry Coker (Paul “Bear” Bryant Award), Ken Dorsey (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Maxwell Award, Rose Bowl co-MVP), Andre Johnson (Rose Bowl co-MVP), Bryant McKinnie (Outland Trophy), Ed Reed (co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Phillip Buchanon (1st, 2002), Vernon Carey (1st, 2004), Andre Johnson (1st, 2003), William Joseph (1st, 2003), Jerome McDougle (1st, 2003), Willis McGahee (1st, 2003), Bryant McKinnie (1st, 2002), Ed Reed (1st, 2002), Antrel Rolle (1st, 2005), Mike Rumph (1st, 2002), Jeremy Shockey (1st, 2002), Sean Taylor (1st, 2004), Jonathan Vilma (1st, 2004), Vince Wilfork (1st, 2004), D.J. Williams (1st, 2004), Kellen Winslow (1st, 2004), Clinton Portis (2nd, 2002)

Simply put, this team was loaded and is viewed by many as one of the best ever in college football history. With a roster featuring six first-team All-Americans and 13 first-team All-Big East selections, not to mention 32 future NFL draft picks, these Hurricanes dominated on both sides of the ball and steamrolled their competition from start to finish. They started things off by going to Happy Valley and dominating Penn State 33-7, which tied the record for the Nittany Lions’ worst home loss under Joe Paterno. Later on, the ‘Canes defeated No. 14 Syracuse and No. 12 Washington in consecutive weeks at the Orange Bowl with a combined score of 124-7, which set the NCAA record for largest margin of victory over consecutive ranked opponents. They capped things off by dismantling the No. 4 Nebraska Cornhuskers 37-14 in the Rose Bowl, in a game where they held a 34-0 lead in the first half.

2001 Schedule:

Sept. 1: Miami (Fla.) 33, Penn State 7 (State College, PA)
Sept. 8: Miami (Fla.) 61, Rutgers 0 (Miami, FL)
Sept. 27: Miami (Fla.) 43, Pittsburgh 21 (Pittsburgh, PA)
Oct. 6: Miami (Fla.) 38, Troy 7 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 13: Miami (Fla.) 49, (#14) Florida State 27 (Tallahassee, FL)
Oct. 25: Miami (Fla.) 45, West Virginia 3 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 3: Miami (Fla.) 38, Temple 0 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 10: Miami (Fla.) 18, Boston College 7 (Chestnut Hill, MA)
Nov. 17: Miami (Fla.) 59, (#14) Syracuse 0 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 24: Miami (Fla.) 65, (#12) Washington 7 (Miami, FL)
Dec. 1: Miami (Fla.) 26, (#14) Virginia Tech 24 (Blacksburg, VA)
Jan. 3: Miami (Fla.) 37, (#4) Nebraska 14 (Rose Bowl)

2. USC Trojans, 2004 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
Key Stats: Led the nation in rushing defense (79.4 ypg) and turnover margin (+1.46), led the Pac-10 in scoring (38.2 ppg) and finished No. 3 nationally in scoring defense (13.0 ppg), USC did not rank below third in the Pac-10 in any of the 14 tracked team stats.
Award Winners: Matt Leinart (Heisman Trophy, Walter Camp, Pac-10 Co-Off. Player of the Year), Reggie Bush (Pac-10 Co-Off. Player of the Year), Shaun Cody (Pac-10 Co-Def. Player of the Year),
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Shaun Cody (2nd, 2005), Lofa Tatupu (2nd, 2005), Matt Leinart (1st, 2006), Reggie Bush (1st, 2006), LenDale White (2nd, 2006), Winston Justice (2nd, 2006), Deuce Lutui (2nd, 2006), Steve Smith (2nd, 2007), Ryan Kalil (2nd, 2007), Lawrence Jackson (1st, 2008), Sam Baker (1st, 2008), Sedrick Ellis (1st, 2008), Keith Rivers (1st, 2008), Fred Davis (2nd, 2008), Chilo Rachal (2nd, 2008), Terrell Thomas (2nd, 2008), Clay Matthews (1st, 2009), Fili Moala (2nd, 2009)

The best team in the Pac-10 since the BCS began might have been the best team in any league during the BCS era. After a split national title in 2003 with LSU, the Trojans entered 2004 as the No. 1 team in the nation. An opening weekend win over ACC champ Virginia Tech in Landover started what would become a magical ride to a BCS National Championship. The Trojans went wire to wire as the No. 1 team in the nation, claimed the Heisman Trophy and put together the most impressive national championship game in the brief history of the BCS. Quarterback Matt Leinart, in his second year under center and armed with an NFL roster full of skill players, led the Pac-10 in passing efficiency (156.54) and finished with 3,322 yards and 36 total touchdowns (against only six interceptions). He capped his Heisman campaign with 332 yards and a BCS bowl record five touchdown passes in the destruction of unbeaten No. 2 Oklahoma. The two-headed rushing attack of LenDale White (1,108 yards, 15 TDs) and Reggie Bush (1,416 yards from scrimmage, 15 TDs) made it virtually impossible for anyone to stop the 2004 Trojans. Eighteen different Trojans from the 2004 BCS National Championship team were selected in the first or second rounds of the NFL Draft. This team had the stats, the resume, the undefeated title season, the NFL talent, a superstar coach and is the best Pac-10 team of the BCS era because of it.

2004 Schedule:

Aug. 28: USC 24, Virginia Tech 13 (Landover, MD)
Sept. 11: USC 49, Colorado State 0 (Los Angeles, CA)
Sept. 18: USC 42, BYU 10 (Provo, UT)
Sept. 25: USC 31, Stanford 28 (Palo Alto, CA)
Oct: 9: USC 23, (#7) Cal 17 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 16: USC 45, (#15) Arizona State 7 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 23: USC 38, Washington 0 (Los Angeles, CA)
Oct. 30: USC 42, Washington State 12 (Pullman, WA)
Nov. 6: USC 28, Oregon State 20 (Corvallis, OR)
Nov. 13: USC 49, Arizona 9 (Los Angeles, CA)
Nov. 27: USC 41, Notre Dame 10 (Los Angeles, CA)
Dec. 4: USC 29, UCLA 24 (Pasadena, CA)
Jan. 4: USC 55, Oklahoma 19 (Miami Gardens, FL, Orange Bowl, BCS NCG)

3. Texas Longhorns, 2005 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Mack Brown
Key Stats: School record 50.2 points per game, school single-season record for total yards (6,657), touchdowns (55), total yards per game (512.1) and yards per rushing attempt (5.9), Vince Young no. 6 in total offense (314.3 ypg) and no. 3 in passing efficiency
Award Winners: Mack Brown (Paul “Bear” Bryant Award, Big 12 Coach of the Year), Michael Huff (Jim Thorpe Award, Rose Bowl Defensive MVP), Vince Young (Big 12 Male Athlete of the Year, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Davey O’Brien Award, Manning Award, Maxwell Award, Rose Bowl Offensive MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (9): Michael Griffin (1st, 2007), Michael Huff (1st, 2006), Brian Orakpo (1st, 2009), Aaron Ross (1st, 2007), Vince Young (1st, 2006), Justin Blalock (2nd, 2007), Tim Crowder (2nd, 2007), Cedric Griffin (2nd, 2006), Limas Sweed (2nd, 2008)

Texas entered the season ranked No. 2 behind defending national champion USC, and that’s where the two found themselves when they met in the Rose Bowl in January 2006. To get to Pasadena, Texas steamrolled the competition, averaging more than 50 points a game and scoring 60 or more four times. In the second week of the season, Texas became the first non-conference opponent in 15 years to defeat Ohio State at home, and followed that win up about a month later by dominating Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. The Longhorns destroyed Colorado 70-3 in the Big 12 Championship to set up the showdown with No. 1 USC. The Rose Bowl title tilt lived up to every bit of its billing as Vince Young put on the most impressive performance in BCS National Championship history, accounting for 84 percent of Texas’ total offense (467 out of 556) yards, and scored the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds left to capture the Longhorns’ fourth national championship in thrilling fashion. Young was one of four consensus All-Americans on this Longhorns team, which also produced a total of 24 NFL Draft picks.

2005 Schedule:

Sept. 3: Texas 60, Louisiana-Lafayette 3 (Austin, TX)
Sept. 10: Texas 25, (#4) Ohio State 22 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 17: Texas 51, Rice 10 (Austin, TX)
Oct. 1: Texas 51, Missouri 20 (Columbia, MO)
Oct. 8: Texas 45, Oklahoma 12 (Dallas, TX)
Oct. 15: Texas 42, (#24) Colorado 17 (Austin, TX)
Oct. 22: Texas 52, (#10) Texas Tech 17 (Austin, TX)
Oct. 29: Texas 47, Oklahoma State 28 (Stillwater, OK)
Nov. 5: Texas 62, Baylor 0 (Waco, TX)
Nov. 12: Texas 66, Kansas 14 (Austin, TX)
Nov. 25: Texas 40, Texas A&M 29 (College Station, TX)
Dec. 3: Texas 70, Colorado 3 (Big 12 Championship — Houston, TX)
Jan. 4: Texas 41, (#1) USC 38 (Rose Bowl, National Championship)

4. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2009 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Key Stats: Finished second in the nation in total (244.1 ypg), rushing (78.1 ypg) and scoring defense (11.7 ppg).
Award Winners: Mark Ingram (Heisman Trophy), Rolando McClain (Butkus, SEC Def. Player of the Year), Javier Arenas (SEC Special Teamer of the Year), Nick Saban (SEC Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Rolando McClain (1st, 2010), Kareem Jackson (1st, 2010), Javier Arenas (2nd, 2010), Terrence Cody (2nd, 2010), Mark Ingram (1st, 2011), James Carpenter (1st, 2011), Marcell Dareus (1st, 2011), Julio Jones (1st, 2011)

Led by boy genius quarterback Greg McElroy and a host of national award-winning first round NFL Draft picks, the Alabama Crimson Tide won their first national title since 1992. Nick Saban defeated five ranked opponents before taking down No. 2 Texas in the BCS National Championship game 37-21. This was the best defense in the nation, finishing second nationally in three of the four major statistical categories. In a rematch of the 2008 SEC title game, McElroy did his best Tebow impression by completing 12-of-18 passes for 239 yards without a turnover while picking up key yards on the ground. Heisman winner Mark Ingram rushed 28 times for 113 yards and three scores in the tear-inducing 32-13 win over Florida in Atlanta. Thus far, six first round picks have entered the NFL from the 2009 roster. Expect that number to grow in the spring with names like Trent Richardon, Dre Kirkpatrick, Barrett Jones and Mark Barron grading into or around the first round.

Florida and Alabama split against each other over the 2008-2009 seasons. Both had a Heisman Trophy winner and both went on to claim the national title. However, the Crimson Tide get a small edge because they finished the season undefeated — something Tim Tebow never did in his four-year college career. Since these two specific teams will obviously never have the chance to face each other, fans are left to argue about which team would win if pitted against each other on a neutral field with all the marbles on the line.

Now, that might actually be something worth Tebow-ing for.

2009 Schedule:

Sept. 5: Alabama 34, Virginia Tech 24 (Atlanta, GA)
Sept. 12: Alabama 40, FIU 14 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 19: Alabama 53, North Texas 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 26: Alabama 35, Arkansas 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 3: Alabama 38, Kentucky 20 (Lexington, KY)
Oct. 10: Alabama 22, Ole Miss 3 (Oxford, MS)
Oct. 17: Alabama 20, South Carolina 6 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 24: Alabama 12, Tennessee 10 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 7: Alabama 24, LSU 15 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 14: Alabama 31, Mississippi State 3 (Starkville, MS)
Nov. 21: Alabama 45, Tennessee-Chattanooga 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 27: Alabama 26, Auburn 21 (Auburn, AL)
Dec. 5: Alabama 32, Florida 13 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 7: Alabama 37, Texas 21 (Pasadena, CA, BCS NCG)

5. Florida State Seminoles, 2013 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher
Key Stats: Florida State won 14 games by an average of 42.3 ppg, Jameis Winston set an NCAA freshman record with 40 passing touchdowns, led the nation with five rushing TD allowed, 18-point BCS comeback was the largest in BCS history
Award Winners: Jamies Winston (Heisman Trophy, Davey O’Brien, Walter Camp), Bryan Stork (Rimington), Roberto Aguayo (Groza)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: N/A

The Noles rolled through its 2013 schedule with surprising ease, beating 13 regular season opponents by more than six touchdowns per game (42.3). Jimbo Fisher built a roster loaded with five-star future NFL stars, and this team’s tremendous balance is what makes it great. Elite defensive players at every level compliment a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, a veteran offensive line and big-time playmakers at the skill positions. Even the special teams were elite and decorated with the Groza winner kicking field goals and extra points. This team crushed people to a perfect 14-0 record — one of only four 14-win, unblemished BCS championship teams. The '13 Noles will go down as one of the most dominant, decorated and successful teams in college football history after erasing the biggest deficit in BCS title game history. In the title game, the offense drove the length of the field twice in the fourth quarter, special teams came up with huge plays and the defense held Auburn's No. 1-ranked rushing attack to 100 fewer yards than it averaged all season.

2013 Schedule:

Sept 2: Florida St 41, Pitt 13 (Pittsburgh, PA)
Sept. 14: Florida St 62, Nevada 7 (Tallahassee, FL)
Sept. 21: Florida St 54, Bethune-Cookman 6 (Tallahassee, FL)
Sept. 28: Florida St 48, Boston College 34 (Chestnut Hill, MA)
Oct. 5: Florida St 63, (#25) Maryland 0 (Tallahassee, FL)
Oct. 19: Florida St 51, (#3) Clemson 14 (Clemson, SC)
Oct. 26: Florida S 49, NC State 17 (Tallahassee, FL)
Nov. 2: Florida St 41, (#7) Miami 14 (Tallahassee, FL)
Nov. 9: Florida St 59, Wake Forest 3 (Winston-Salem, NC)
Nov. 16: Florida St 59, Syracuse 3 (Tallahassee, FL)
Nov. 23: Florida St 80, Idaho 14 (Tallahassee, FL)
Nov. 30: Florida St 37, Florida 7 (Gainesville, FL)
Dec. 7: Florida St 45, (#20) Duke 7 (Charlotte, NC)
Jan. 6: Florida St 34, (#2) Auburn 31 (Pasadena, CA)
 

6. Oklahoma Sooners, 2000 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
Key Stats: No. 7 in nation in both scoring offense (39 ppg) and scoring defense (16 ppg), no. 8 in total defense (278.9 ypg), no. 9 in pass defense (170.5 ypg) and no. 2 in pass efficiency defense, Josh Heupel no. 6 in nation in total offense (294.7 ypg)
Award Winners: Josh Heupel (AP Player of the Year, Big 12 Player of the Year, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Walter Camp Award), Bob Stoops (AP National Coach of the Year, Big 12 Coach of the Year, Eddie Robinson/FWAA Coach of the Year, Paul “Bear” Bryant Award, Walter Camp National Coach of the Year, Woody Hayes National Coach of the Year), J.T. Thatcher (Mosi Tatupu Award — national Special Teams Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (3): Roy Williams (1st, 2002), Andre Woolfolk (1st, 2003), Teddy Lehman (2nd, 2004)

This Sooners team entered the season ranked No. 19 in the country, but fueled by an impressive three-game stretch in October, it ended the season ranked considerably higher. Behind quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up Josh Heupel and a stingy defense, the Sooners started October by destroying No. 11 Texas in the Red River Rivalry and then out-scored No. 2 Kansas State on the road and two weeks later dominated No. 3 Nebraska at home to vault to the top of the rankings. The Sooners would defeat Kansas State a second time in the Big 12 Championship to set up a showdown with No. 3 Florida State (No. 2 in the BCS standings) in the Orange Bowl. Even though they were playing in their home state, the Seminoles’ potent offense, led by quarterback and Heisman winner Chris Weinke, was held in check and scoreless by the Sooners defense in the lowest scoring Orange Bowl in 30 years. Fittingly enough, linebacker Torrance Marshall, who had six tackles and an interception (which ranks as the no. 4 Greatest BCS National Championship Performance), took home MVP honors as Oklahoma defeated Florida State 13-2 to capture its seventh national championship and first since 1985.

2000 Schedule:

Sept. 2: Oklahoma 55, UTEP 14 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 9: Oklahoma 45, Arkansas State 7 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 23: Oklahoma 42, Rice 17 (Norman, OK)
Sept. 30: Oklahoma 34, Kansas 16 (Norman, OK)
Oct. 7: Oklahoma 63, (#11) Texas 14 (Dallas, TX)
Oct. 14: Oklahoma 41, (#2) Kansas State 31 (Manhattan, KS)
Oct. 28: Oklahoma 31, (#3) Nebraska 14 (Norman, OK)
Nov. 4: Oklahoma 56, Baylor 7 (Waco, TX)
Nov. 11: Oklahoma 35, (#23) Texas A&M 31 (College Station, TX)
Nov. 18: Oklahoma 27, Texas Tech 13 (Norman, OK)
Nov. 25: Oklahoma 12, Oklahoma State 7 (Stillwater, OK)
Dec. 2: Oklahoma 27, (#8) Kansas State 24 (Big 12 Championship – Kansas City, MO)
Jan. 3: Oklahoma 13, (#3) Florida State 2 (Orange Bowl, National Championship)

7. Tennessee Volunteers, 1998 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Phillip Fulmer
Key Stats: This team put 11 players into the first or second round of the NFL Draft; Peerless Price is second all-time in BCS bowls with 242 all-purpose yards in the Fiesta Bowl, his 49.8 yards per catch is a BCS title game record.
Award Winners: Phillip Fulmer (AP National Coach of the Year), Peerless Price (Fiesta Bowl MVP), David Cutcliffe (Broyles)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Al Wilson (1st, 1999), Peerless Price (2nd, 1999), Jamal Lewis (1st, 2000), Shaun Ellis (1st, 2000), Raynoch Thompson (2nd, 2000), Chad Clifton (2nd, 2000), Dwayne Goodrich (2nd, 2000), Casey Coleman (2nd, 2000), Deon Grant (2nd, 2000), Travis Henry (2nd, 2001), John Henderson (1st, 2002)

In Year 1 A.P. (after Peyton), the Vols put together their greatest season in nearly five decades. Tee Martin stepped in at quarterback, and aided by a monster backfield that included Travis Henry, Jamal Lewis, Travis Stephens and Shawn Bryson, led the Vols past six ranked opponents for Tennessee’s sixth national championship. The defense held nine of its 13 opponents to 18 points or less. Despite a BCS record 199 yards receiving (242 all-purpose yards) and the game-winning 79-yard touchdown for game MVP Peerless Price, the most important and memorable moment from the 1998 title run involved a stumbling Razorback. Late in the Arkansas game, Tennessee was all but beaten until Billy Ratliff forced guard Brandon Burlsworth into quarterback Clint Stoerner, who gently and inexplicably “placed” the football on the ground. The Vols used a Henry touchdown run in the final seconds to seal the comeback from a 21-3 deficit and the eventual national championship.

1998 Schedule:

Sept. 5: Tennessee 34, (#17) Syracuse 33 (Syracuse, NY)
Sept. 19: Tennessee 20, (#2) Florida 17 (Knoxville, TN)
Sept. 26: Tennessee 42, Houston 7 (Knoxville, TN)
Oct. 3: Tennessee 17, Auburn 9 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 10: Tennessee 22, (#7) Georgia 3 (Athens, GA)
Oct. 24: Tennessee 35, Alabama 18 (Knoxville, TN)
Oct. 31: Tennessee 49, South Carolina 14 (Columbia, SC)
Nov. 7: Tennessee 37, UAB 13 (Knoxville, TN)
Nov. 14: Tennessee 28, (#10) Arkansas 24 (Knoxville, TN)
Nov. 21: Tennessee 59, Kentucky 21 (Knoxville, TN)
Nov. 28: Tennessee 41, Vanderbilt 0 (Nashville, TN)
Dec. 5: Tennessee 24, (#23) Mississippi State 14 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 4: Tennessee 23, (#2) Florida State 16 (Tempe, AZ, Fiesta Bowl)

8. Florida Gators, 2008 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Key Stats: Led the SEC in rushing (231.1 ypg), total offense (445.1 ypg), scoring (43.6 ppg), pass efficiency defense (96.76), scoring defense (12.9 ppg), punting (38.1 ypp), turnover margin (+1.57) and passing efficiency (170.6). Percy Harvin led the SEC in scoring at 10.2 ppg.
Award Winners: Tim Tebow (Maxwell, SEC Off. Player of the Year), Brandon James (SEC Special Teamer of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Percy Harvin (1st, 2009), Tim Tebow (1st, 2010), Joe Haden (1st, 2010), Maurkice Pouncey (1st, 2010), Carlos Dunlap (2nd, 2010), Jermaine Cunningham (2nd, 2010), Brandon Spikes (2nd, 2010), Mike Pouncey (1st, 2011), Marcus Gilbert (2nd, 2011)

Tim Tebow had his Heisman Trophy (2007) and a national championship ring (2006). But when the Florida Gators lost to the Ole Miss Rebels in The Swamp on a final drive fourth-down stop, Tebow took his legendary legacy to new heights. After fumbling, taking sacks and missing open receivers, the Gainesville idol gave one of the most famous speeches in college football history: “You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season.” The Gators then went on to crush quality opponents Arkansas, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State and Alabama by an average of 31.8 points per game. The win over No. 1 and unbeaten Alabama pushed the Gators into the national title game against another No. 1. The Chosen One then delivered on his promise (and halftime speech) by throwing for 231 yards and two scores while rushing for 109 yards on 22 carries to outlast Oklahoma 24-14. He claimed his second national championship in three years before announcing he would return for his senior year. The 2008 Gators tied the 1996 national champs as the highest-scoring team in school history (611 points).

2008 Schedule:

Aug. 30: Florida 56, Hawaii 10 (Gainesville, FL)
Sept. 6: Florida 26, Miami 3 (Gainesville, FL)
Sept. 20: Florida 30, Tennessee 6 (Knoxville, TN)
Sept. 27: Ole Miss 31, Florida 30 (Gainesville, FL)
Oct. 4: Florida 38, Arkansas 7 (Fayetteville, AR)
Oct. 11: Florida 51, (#4) LSU 21 (Gainesville, FL)
Oct. 25: Florida 63, Kentucky 5 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 1: Florida 49, (#8) Georgia 10 (Jacksonville, FL)
Nov. 8: Florida 42, Vanderbilt 14 (Nashville, TN)
Nov. 15: Florida 56, (#24) South Carolina 6 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 22: Florida 70, Citadel 19 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 29: Florida 45, (#23) Florida State 15 (Tallahassee, FL)
Dec. 6: Florida 31, (#1) Alabama 20 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 8: Florida 24, (#2) Oklahoma 14 (Miami Gardens, FL, BCS NCG)

9. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2011 (12-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Key Stats: Set a BCS era record with 8.2 points allowed per game, led the nation in total defense (183.6 ypg), rushing defense (72.2 ypg) and passing defense (111.5 ypg). Held LSU to zero points, five first downs and 92 yards of offense in the BCS title game.
Award Winners: Trent Richardson (Doak Walker Award, SEC Off. Player of the Year), Barrett Jones (Outland Trophy, Wuerffel Trophy)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Trent Richardson (1st, 2012), Mark Barron (1st, 2012) Dre Kirkpatrick (1st, 2012), Dont'a Hightower (1st, 2012), Courtney Upshaw (2nd, 2012), Dee Miliner (1st, 2013), Chance Warmack (1st, 2013), D.J. Fluker (1st, 2013), Eddie Lacy (2nd, 2013)

As Athlon Sports' preseason pick as the National Champion, Alabama rolled through its schedule — which included easy victories over three ranked opponents — until the "Game of the Century" on November 5 against LSU. The Tide outplayed the Tigers on offense and defense in that game, but was destroyed on special teams and it cost Saban a perfect season. After crushing rival Auburn, the Tide headed to New Orleans for a rematch with LSU. In a performance that would make the Bear weep openly, the Tide held Jordan Jefferson and the Bayou Bengals to five first downs, 92 yards of offense and no points. Alabama led the nation in every major defensive team NCAA statistic and it showed in the title game. This Crimson Tide team is the only BCS National Champion who failed to win its conference championship and the offense did not possess the same level of explosive talent on offense (and it lost a game) to be ranked ahead of the 2009 Alabama title squad.

2011 Schedule:

Sept. 3: Alabama 48, Kent State 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 10: Alabama 27, (#23) Penn State 11 (Happy Valley, PA)
Sept. 17: Alabama 41, North Texas 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 24: Alabama 38, (#14) Arkansas 14 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 1: Alabama 38, (#12) Florida 10 (Gainesville, FL)
Oct. 8: Alabama 34, Vanderbilt 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 15: Alabama 52, Ole Miss 7 (Oxford, MS)
Oct. 22: Alabama 37, Tennessee 6 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 5: (#1) LSU 9, Alabama 6 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 12: Alabama 24, Mississippi State 7 (Starkville, MS)
Nov. 19: Alabama 45, Georgia Southern 21 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 26: Alabama 42, Auburn 14 (Auburn, AL)
Jan. 9: Alabama 21, (#1) LSU 0 (New Orleans, LA, BCS NCG)

10. Florida State Seminoles, 1999 (12-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Bobby Bowden
Key Stats: Janikowski led NCAA in FGM/Game (23 FGM), Led the ACC in passing 302.9 ypg and fourth in the nation in scoring at 37.5 ppg. Led the ACC in total defense (302.6 ypg).
Award Winners: Sebastian Janikowski (Lou Groza), Peter Warrick (Sugar Bowl MVP)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Peter Warrick (1st, 2000), Corey Simon (1st, 2000), Sebastian Janikowski (1st, 2000), Jamal Reynolds (1st, 2001), Derrick Gibson (1st, 2001), Tommy Polley (2nd, 2001), Anquan Boldin (2nd, 2003)

The best team of the BCS era in the ACC claimed nine first-team All-ACC performers (AP) and six second-team selections. Florida State became the first team in history to go wire-to-wire as No. 1 team in all three polls after beating five ranked opponents. It was the second-highest scoring Noles team of the BCS era and No. 7 highest-scoring team in FSU history. Chris Weinke and Peter Warrick outlasted Michael Vick and the Hokies in the memorable 1999 championship game. Warrick, after surviving some off-the-field incidents, claimed MVP honors after catching six passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns and returning a punt for a score. His 220 all-purpose yards are fourth all-time in a title game and his 20 points (3 TDs, 2-pt) are a BCS title game record. (It was the No. 11 BCS title game performance.) The win gave Bobby Bowden his second national championship.

1999 Schedule:

Aug. 28: Florida State 41, Louisiana Tech 7 (Tallahassee, FL)
Sept. 11: Florida State 41, (#10) Georiga Tech 35 (Tallahassee, FL)
Sept. 18: Florida State 42, (#20) NC State 11 (Tallahassee, FL)
Sept. 25: Florida State 42, North Carolina 10 (Chapel Hill, NC)
Oct. 2: Florida State 51, Duke 23 (Jacksonville, FL)
Oct. 9: Florida State 31, (#19) Miami 21 (Tallahasse, FL)
Oct. 16: Florida State 33, Wake Forest 10 (Tallahassee, FL)
Oct. 23: Florida State 17, Clemson 10 (Clemson, SC)
Oct. 30: Florida State 35, Virginia 10 (Charlottesville, VA)
Nov. 13: Florida State 49, Maryland 10 (Tallahassee, FL)
Nov. 20: Florida State 30, (#4) Florida 20 (Gainesville, FL)
Jan. 4: Florida State 46, (#2) Virginia Tech 29 (Sugar Bowl)

11. LSU Tigers, 2003 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Key Stats: Only one time did a team score more than 14 points against LSU (Arkansas, 24). Led the nation in total defense (252.0 ypg) and scoring defense (11.0 ppg), held Heisman winner Jason White to 13-of-37 passing in title game.
Award Winners: Chad Lavalais (SEC Def. Player of the Year), Nick Saban (AP National Coach of the Year), Justin Vincent (Sugar Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Michael Clayton (1st, 2004), Devery Henderson (2nd, 2004), Marquise Hill (2nd, 2004), Marcus Spears (1st, 2005), Corey Webster (2nd, 2005), Joseph Addai (1st, 2006), Andrew Whitworth (2nd, 2006), LaRon Landry (1st, 2007), Dwayne Bowe (1st, 2007), Chris Davis (1st, 2007)

Armed with the nation’s nastiest defense, Nick Saban restored the LSU name to prominence in only his fourth year at the helm. His team led the nation in total defense at 252 yards per game and scoring defense at exactly 11.0 points per game. Arkansas was the only team to score more than 14 points against the Bayou Bengals in 2003. Quarterback Matt Mauck steered the ship, freshman Justin Vincent and sophomore Joseph Addai powered the offense and one of the deepest receiving corps in history gave LSU tremendous balance. With three one-loss teams sitting atop the standings — and USC ranked No. 1 in both the AP and Coaches’ Poll — the computers controversially placed the Sooners in the National Championship game against the Tigers. After the 21-14 win over an Oklahoma team boasting the Heisman, Thorpe, Lombardi and Bednarik winners, LSU claimed the BCS national title — splitting the votes with USC. It was their first national championship since 1958.

2003 Schedule:

Aug. 30: LSU 49, UL Monroe 7 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 6: LSU 59, Arizona 13 (Tucson, AZ)
Sept. 13: LSU 35, Western Illinois 7 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 20: LSU 17, (#7) Georgia 10 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 27: LSU 41, Mississippi State 6 (Starkville, MS)
Oct. 11: Florida 19, LSU 7 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Oct. 18: LSU 33, South Carolina 7 (Columbia, SC)
Oct. 25: LSU 31, (#17) Auburn 7 (Baton Rouge, LA
Nov. 1: LSU 49, Louisiana Tech 10 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Nov. 15: LSU 27, Alabama 3 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 22: LSU 17, (#15) Ole Miss 14 (Oxford, MS)
Nov. 28: LSU 55, Arkansas 24 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Dec. 6: LSU 34, (#5) Georgia 13 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 4: LSU 21, (#3) Oklahoma 14 (New Orleans, LA, Sugar Bowl)

12. Alabama Crimson Tide, 2012 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Nick Saban
Key Stats: Led the nation in rushing and total defense for the second straight year and was second nationally in scoring defense, AJ McCarron was second nationally in passing efficiency,  
Award Winners: Barrett Jones (Rimington)
"First Day" NFL Draft Picks: Dee Miliner (1st, 2013), Chance Warmack (1st, 2013), D.J. Fluker (1st, 2013), Eddie Lacy (2nd, 2013)

The 2012 Crimson Tide championship team isn't as strong defensively as the unit that dominated the college football landscape the year before, but defending a title is almost always more difficult than winning the first one. AJ McCarron had spotlight moments all season long, including 264 yards and four touchdowns against Notre Dame in the title game. Had McCarron not thrown the goal-line interception against Texas A&M, this team would have easily landed in the top 10. This team rolled up 529 yards of offense in one of the more impressive title game performances in the 15-year history of the BCS. And did it against one of the best defenses in the nation.

2012 Schedule:

Sept. 1: Alabama 41, (#8) Michigan 14 (Arlington, TX)
Sept. 8: Alabama 35, Western Kentucky 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 15: Alabama 52, Arkansas 0 (Fayetteville, AR)
Sept. 22: Alabama 40, FAU 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Sept. 29: Alabama 33, Ole Miss 14 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Oct. 13: Alabama 42, Missouri 10 (Columbia, MO)
Oct. 20: Alabama 44, Tennessee 13 (Knoxville, TN)
Oct. 27: Alabama 38, (#13) Mississippi State 7 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 3: Alabama 21, LSU 17 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Nov. 10: (#15) Texas A&M 29, Alabama 24 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 17: Alabama 49, Western Carolina 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 24: Alabama 49, Auburn 0 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Dec. 1: Alabama 32, (#3) Georgia 28 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 7: Alabama 42, (#1) Notre Dame 14 (Miami Gardens, FL, BCS NCG)

13. Auburn Tigers, 2010 (14-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Gene Chizik
Key Stats: Cam Newton's 4,327 yards of total offense fset a single-season SEC record; Tigers set a school record with 41.2 points per game, led the nation in passing efficiency 180.52, won seven games by one score or less.
Award Winners: Cam Newton (Heisman Trophy, Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, SEC Off. Player of Year), Nick Fairley (Lombardi), Lee Ziemba (SEC Top Blocker)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Cam Newton (1st, 2011), Nick Fairley (1st, 2011)

The one-year wonders Cam Newton and Nick Fairley gave Auburn arguably its most important recruiting haul in history when they both chose the Loveliest Village on the Plains. The Heisman Trophy winner willed his team to victory against Mississippi State, Clemson, Kentucky, Alabama, Oregon and defined his legacy with an incredible 49-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of a tied game with LSU. His 217 rushing yards in the 24-17 win over the Tigers broke a single-game SEC rushing record for a quarterback. Newton finished with 2,854 yards passing, 1,473 yards rushing and an SEC second-best 51 total touchdowns. This is the only 14-win team in school history and was the highest-scoring Tigers team in program history by a wide margin — their 577 points topped Terry Bowden’s 1995 team by 139 points (41.2 ppg against 36.5 ppg).

2010 Schedule:

Sept. 4: Auburn 52, Arkansas State 26 (Auburn, AL)
Sept. 9: Auburn 17, Mississippi State 14 (Starkville, MS)
Sept. 18: Auburn 27, Clemson 24 (Auburn, AL)
Sept. 25: Auburn 35, (#12) South Carolina 27 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 2: Auburn 52, UL Monroe 3 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 9: Auburn 37, Kentucky 34 (Lexington, KY)
Oct. 16: Auburn 65, (#12) Arkansas 43 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 23: Auburn 24, (#6) LSU 17 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 30: Auburn 51, Ole Miss 31 (Oxford, MS)
Nov. 6: Auburn 62, Tennessee-Chattanooga 24 (Auburn, AL)
Nov. 13: Auburn 28, (#9) Alabama 27 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Dec. 4: Auburn 56, (#18) South Carolina 17 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 10: Auburn 22, (#2) Oregon 19 (Glendale, AZ, BCS NCG)

14. Ohio State Buckeyes, 2002 (14-0, 8-0)

Head Coach: Jim Tressel
Key Stats: Ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense (13.1 ppg) and No. 3 nationally in rushing defense (77.7 ypg), this was the first team in NCAA history to finish 14-0
Award Winners: Maurice Clarett (Big Ten Freshman of the Year), Mike Doss (Big Ten Co-Def. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Mike Doss (2nd, 2003), Will Smith (1st, 2004), Chris Gamble (1st, 2004), Michael Jenkins (1st, 2004), Mike Nugent (2nd, 2005)

The team that never gave up began the season ranked No. 13 in the nation and slowing grinded their way to the No. 1 spot in the final standings. The Buckeyes beat five ranked teams, including the Big East's No. 2 team of the BCS era, en route to the 2002 National Championship. Behind gritty play from quarterback Craig Krenzel and a freshman school rushing record from Maurice Clarett (1,237 yards), the Bucks found themselves as heavy underdogs to defending national champs Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. Yet, the staunch Buckeye defense and two key touchdowns (and one great forced fumble/recovery) from Clarett gave Ohio State its sixth consensus national championship. The much-debated pass inference penalty also will go down in history as one of the more controversial plays — even if it was the right call. This Ohio State team sent an NFL record 14 players to the league in the 2004 draft (five were selected in 2003 and three in 2005). This is the only Big Ten team to have claimed a BCS National Championship making them the top Big Ten team of the BCS Era.

2002 Schedule:

Aug. 24: Ohio State 45, Texas Tech 21 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 7: Ohio State 51, Kent State 17 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 14: Ohio State 25, (#10) Washington State 7 (Columbus, OH)
Sept. 21: Ohio State 23, Cincinnati 19 (Cincinnati, OH)
Sept. 28: Ohio State 45, Indiana 17 (Columbus, OH)
Oct. 5: Ohio State 27, Northwestern 16 (Evanston, IL)
Oct. 12: Ohio State 50, San Jose State 7 (Columbus, OH)
Oct. 19: Ohio State 19, Wisconsin 14 (Madison, WI)
Oct. 26: Ohio State 13, (#17) Penn State 7 (Columbus, OH)
Nov. 2: Ohio State 34, (#19) Minnesota 3 (Columbus, OH)
Nov. 9: Ohio State 10, Purdue 6 (West Lafayette, IN)
Nov. 16: Ohio State 23, Illinois 16 (Champaign, IL)
Nov. 23: Ohio State 14, (#12) Michigan 9 (Columbus, OH)
Jan. 3: Ohio State 31, (#1) Miami 24 (Fiesta Bowl, BCS NCG)

15. Florida Gators, 2006 (13-1, 7-1)
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Key Stats: Florida held Heisman winner Troy Smith to four completions in the title game and the Buckeyes to 82 total yards.
Award Winners: Percy Harvin (SEC Freshman of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Reggie Nelson (1st, 2007), Jarvis Moss (1st, 2007), Derrick Harvey (1st, 2008), Percy Harvin (1st, 2009), Tim Tebow (1st, 2010), Jermaine Cunningham (2nd, 2010), Brandon Spikes (2nd, 2010)

After defeating a ranked Tennessee, LSU, Georgia and Arkansas, the Florida Gators entered the 2006 BCS national title game as a big underdog to Ohio State. But an NFL-heavy defense delivered one of the greatest defensive performances in championship game history. Jarvis Moss, Reggie Nelson, Derrick Harvey and company harassed Heisman winner Troy Smith all day. Smith threw for 35 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and was sacked five times. They held the OSU rushing attack to 47 yards on 23 carries. Ohio State totaled 82 yards of offense in the 41-14 beatdown. Cult hero Tim Tebow touched the ball 11 times and scored twice to begin his eternal legacy at Florida. Florida sent nine played into the 2007 NFL Draft. The only loss came at the hands of No. 11 Auburn 27-17 in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

2006 Schedule:

Sept. 2: Florida 34, Southern Miss 7 (Gainesville, FL)
Sept. 9: Florida 42, Central Florida 0 (Gainesville, FL)
Sept. 16: Florida 21, (#13) Tennessee 20 (Knoxville, TN)
Sept. 23: Florida 26, Kentucky 7 (Gainesville, FL)
Sept. 30: Florida 28, Alabama 13 (Gainesville, FL)
Oct. 7: Florida 23, (#9) LSU 10 (Gainesville, FL)
Oct. 14: (#11) Auburn 27, Florida 17 (Auburn, AL)
Oct. 28: Florida 21, (#25) Georgia 14 (Jacksonville, FL)
Nov. 4: Florida 25, Vanderbilt 19 (Nashville, TN)
Nov. 11: Florida 17, South Carolina 16 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 18: Florida 62, Western Carolina 0 (Gainesville, FL)
Nov. 25: Florida 21, Florida State 14 (Tallahassee, FL)
Dec. 2: Florida 38, (#8) Arkansas 28 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 8: Florida 41, (#1) Ohio State 14 (Glendale, AZ)

16. LSU Tigers, 2007 (12-2, 6-2)
Head Coach: Les Miles
Key Stats: LSU beat seven ranked teams; the only BCS champion with two losses.
Award Winners: Glenn Dorsey (Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski, Lott, SEC Def. Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Glenn Dorsey (1st, 2008), Tyson Jackson (1st, 2009)

By definition only, this is the “worst” BCS national champion due its two losses. However, wins over ranked Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee (with back-up quarterback Ryan Perrilloux) and Ohio State gave the Bayou Bengals the crystal ball nonetheless. The Tigers were undefeated in regulation, however, as both Kentucky and Arkansas needed overtime to top the Tigers. Despite the two losses and the 83 combined points allowed, the LSU Tigers defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes in relatively easy fashion 38-24. Matt Flynn threw four touchdown passes, and the defense, led by an 8-tackle, 1.5-sack, forced fumble performance by Ali Highsmith, kept the Bucks at arm’s length the entire game. It was the Tigers' second national title in five years.

2007 Schedule:

Aug. 30: LSU 45, Mississippi State 0 (Starkville, MS)
Sept. 8: LSU 48, (#9) Virginia Tech 7 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 15: LSU 44, MTSU 0 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 22: LSU 28, (#14) South Carolina 16 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Sept. 29: LSU 34, Tulane 9 (New Orleans, LA)
Oct. 6: LSU 28, (#7) Florida 24 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Oct. 13: (#18) Kentucky 43, LSU 37 (3 OT) (Lexington, KY)
Oct. 20: LSU 30, (#19) Auburn 24 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Nov. 3: LSU 41, (#18) Alabama 34 (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Nov. 10: LSU 58, Louisiana Tech 10 (Baton Rouge, LA)
Nov. 17: LSU 41, Ole Miss 24 (Oxford, MS)
Nov. 23: Arkansas 50, LSU 48 (3 OT) (Baton Rouge, LA)
Dec. 1: LSU 21, (#15) Tennessee 14 (Atlanta, GA)
Jan. 7: LSU 38, (#1) Ohio State 24 (New Orleans, LA, BCS NCG)

Teaser:
BCS Era: Ranking the 16 BCS National Champions
Post date: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/amazing-stats-nfls-2013-wildcard-weekend
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Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.

Some fall on the sabermetric side of things, while others like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.

With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Wild Card Weekend:

8: NFL-record consecutive playoff losses for Kansas City
The Chiefs were leading 31-10 at halftime and pushed their lead to 38-10 early in the third quarter. Andrew Luck and the Colts then outscored Kansas City 35-6 over the final 27 minutes of play to win 45-44 in Lucas Oil Stadium. The loss for the Chiefs was an NFL-record eighth consecutive playoff defeat dating back to a 1993 win over Houston in the AFC Divisional round. The Lions have the second-longest losing streak in NFL playoff history with seven losses in a row, while Cleveland, Dallas, Minnesota, Seattle and the New York Giants each have had a six-game playoff losing streak. The Chiefs' losing streak is obviously the longest active streak, followed by the Lions, but Cincinnati, after falling to San Diego on Sunday, joins the next group after its sixth straight playoff loss. Cincy's last playoff win also came against Houston, but in the 1990 Wild Card round, giving the Bengals the longest drought in the NFL without a playoff win (24 years).

28: NFL’s second largest playoff comeback
Luck and the Colts were brilliant in the second half of their Wild Card win over Kansas City. Trailing 38-10 with just over 12 minutes to play, Luck went on a Frank Reich-esque tear to lead Indianapolis to as improbable a playoff win as the league has ever seen. The four-touchdown comeback was the second largest in NFL history, trailing only the Bills' miraculous and infamous comeback against Houston. Buffalo overcame a 32-point deficit in the 1992 Wild Card game against the Oilers to win in overtime. San Francisco topped the Giants 39-38 in 2002 in a 24-point comeback and Detroit beat the 49ers 31-27 after a 20-point comeback in 1957. Those are the four largest playoff comebacks in NFL history.

11: Andrew Luck’s NFL-leading fourth-quarter/overtime game-winning drives since 2012 season
Since entering the NFL last season, no player in the NFL has more game-winning, fourth-quarter or overtime drives over the last two seasons (including playoffs). Sunday marked the 11th time since Week 1 of 2012 that Luck led his team on a game-winning drive. The second-year quarterback finished 29-of-45 for 443 yards passing with seven rushing attempts for 45 yards. He accounted for five total touchdowns. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton set franchise playoff records with 13 receptions and 224 yards as well. Tony Romo and Russell Wilson are tied for second behind Luck with nine fourth-quarter or overtime game-winning drives since the start of the ’12 season. Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan are next on the list with eight such drives.

80 and 3.6: Eagles yards rushing and yards per carry against the Saints
Chip Kelly’s offense was one of the best in the NFL in 2013. The Eagles led the NFL in rushing at 160.4 yards per game, led the NFL in yards rushing per carry at 5.1 per and were No. 2 in the NFL with 19 rushing touchdowns this season. The Saints, a team ranked 19th in rushing defense (111.6) and 28th in rushing yards per carry (4.6), did a fabulous job bottling up LeSean McCoy, the NFL’s leading rusher. McCoy and the Eagles rushed 22 times for 80 yards for just 3.6 yards per carry in the loss. The 80 yards allowed were the second-lowest total allowed by the Saints all season long (75, St. Louis). The 80 yards rushing were the third-lowest total of the year for Kelly’s offense.

1: New Orleans franchise road playoff wins
Entering Wild Card weekend, the New Orleans Saints had never won a road playoff game in nearly 50 years of NFL football. The Saints had lost all five previous road postseason games before topping the Eagles 26-24 in Philadelphia. Using a veteran quarterback and aforementioned tremendous defensive effort, New Orleans earned the right to visit Seattle in the Divisional Round — the same place where the Saints were upset by a 7-9 Seahawks team in the 2010 NFC Wild Card round.

12.1: Colin Kaepernick's playoff yards per carry average against Green Bay
Colin Kaepernick is 3-0 against the Packers in his short career, including two playoff wins in each of the last two seasons. His ability to make things happen with his legs has been the death of the Green Bay defense in each of the two playoff games. Kaepernick has rushed 23 times for  279 yards and two touchdowns at an astonishing 12.1-yard clip in two playoff wins over the Packers. The San-Fran signal-caller made critical plays on the ground when the things broke down in the pocket and the Packers' depleted defense had no answer for No. 7 in the open field. He finished with 98 yards rushing on seven carries to go with 227 yards passing. It was the first road playoff win in five tries for the 49ers at Lambeau Field.

Minus-10: Wind chill temperature at kickoff in Lambeau Field
The coldest game in NFL history was the Ice Bowl in 1967 between Green Bay and Dallas at minus-13 degrees at kickoff with minus-48 wind chill. The Freezer Bowl was the second-coldest in NFL history when the Bengals beat the Chargers in minus-9 degree temperatures in the face of an absurd minus-59 wind chill. The third coldest was the minus-1 degree NFC Championship game between the Giants and Packers at the end of the ’07 season. The 49ers' win over Green Bay featured a temperature of five degrees with a minus-10 degree wind chill at kickoff.

14-0: San Diego’s record when Philip Rivers attempts 21 or fewer passes
The Chargers ran the ball 40 times for 196 yards to beat the Bengals in Cincinnati on Sunday. Philip Rivers completed 12 of just 16 passes in the game for 128 yards in the win. In 128 regular-season and eight career playoff starts, Rivers has thrown fewer than 16 passes just three times and he has thrown 21 or fewer just 14 times in a start. San Diego has never lost (14-0) when Rivers throws 21 or fewer passes in a game, including 2-0 in such playoff starts. When Rivers throws 40 or more passes, San Diego is 6-22 all-time, including one playoff loss. Additionally, the Chargers are 22-2 when Rivers starts and throws 23 or fewer passes in his career. The formula seems pretty obvious for Mike McCoy and company — take the ball out of Rivers’ hands and run it.

1-2: Record of first-year coaches in the playoffs
Three first-year head coaches led their team to the playoffs this fall. Andy Reid watched his Chiefs give up the second-biggest lead in NFL playoff history. Chip Kelly’s powerful rushing attack was totally stuffed by a team not known for its ability to stop the run. So San Diego’s Mike McCoy was the only first-year head coach to claim a playoff victory with his convincing 27-10 road win over the Bengals. San Diego now heads to Denver to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos — a team it beat 27-20 three weeks ago in Denver when Rivers threw just 20 passes.

Teaser:
Amazing Stats from the NFL's 2013 Wildcard Weekend
Post date: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/11-reasons-youre-glad-say-goodbye-bcs
Body:

The BCS acronym is kind of perfect, really.

It’s as if the organizers wanted to make sure BS made its way in there somehow.

Even the name spelled out is all wrong: Bowl Championship Series. The "championship" involves one game, hardly a series at all.

The BCS era ended Monday night with the final championship game. A playoff, limited as it may be to four teams, begins next season. The polls and computer rankings will give way to a 13-person selection committee.

The frustration and confusion this era has wrought will make many say good riddance.

Yesterday, we picked the reasons why you’ll end up missing the BCS when it’s gone. This is why you’re more than happy to kick it to the curb.

11 Reasons you’re glad BCS is gone

Three Words: College. Football. Playoff.
Sure, the BCS set up a winner-take-all title game situation, but think of the underlying idea behind this: Since 1998, only two teams, according to this system, are worthy of playing for the national championship. The infuriating reality was that teams were better off losing early in the season rather than losing late in most cases. The playoff — one hopes — allows more wiggle room for teams that improve as the season goes along, like Michigan State this year, or teams that lose in wild ways, like Alabama. Parsing the one-loss teams or picking which two-loss teams are worthy may be controversial, but it’s unlikely a team in a major conference can go undefeated and miss an opportunity to play for a title.

The BCS didn’t end split national champions
The No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup was supposed to put an end to split national champions, but that failed in 2003. USC was ranked No. 1 in the coaches’ and AP polls, but the computer average downgraded the Trojans to third, sending Oklahoma and LSU to the title game. LSU beat the Sooners, and USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl. The coaches were obligated to vote for the BCS championship game winner, but the AP voters were not and gave their trophy to USC.

The BCS screwed up the title game at least twice
Feel free to argue 2004 Auburn belonged in the championship game or Texas should have gone instead of Oklahoma in 2008 when the Longhorns defeated the Sooners. Let’s just stick with the most egregious title game mishaps. Before the computer rankings and the BCS formula outweighed the human polls in 2003 (see above), they did something even worse in 2001. Nebraska lost the Big 12 title game 62-36 to Colorado that year but still remained No. 2 the final BCS rankings. Joey Harrington-led Oregon ranked second in the AP and coaches’ polls after the conference title games, and two-loss Colorado ranked third across the board. Nebraska got the title game nod in the BCS, though, and proceeded to get clobbered 37-14 by Miami.

The BCS brought us the ridiculous Harris poll
When the AP pulled its top 25 out of the BCS rankings after three undefeated teams topped the polls in 2004, the BCS powers that be replaced it with the Harris Interactive top 25. The Harris poll featured a collection of former players, coaches, administrators and former and current media members. Some of the names over the years were well-known. Lloyd Carr, Jackie Sherrill, Tommie Frazier and Boomer Esiason were all on the panel at one point or another (so was Jerry Sandusky). Some of the voters were obscure, little-known lettermen — now businessmen, doctors, dentists and even PGA tour officials — who didn’t even know who nominated them in the first place. Some of them even admitted to not watching the games. Though Harris released their names and final ballots, other information was tough to find. Not that it mattered, as many fans continued to assume the AP poll was involved until the very end.

The BCS brought us the even more ridiculous computer rankings
The Harris poll was ludicrous, but in practice, it essentially produced a carbon copy of the coaches’ poll or AP poll, for better or worse. The size of the panel (100-plus voters) prevented anyone with a truly wacky ballot to do much damage. That’s when the computers come in. The first BCS rankings had three computers. The next one had eight. By the end, the standings had six. It seems strange that now that statistical analysis is more mainstream and better than it was in 1998, the computers are still one of the worst parts of the BCS. What did the algorithms count? Who really knows. The proprietors computers were never required to open them up to inspection. The only thing forbidden: An emphasis margin of victory. After several seasons, the BCS administrators didn’t want to encourage teams to run up the score, so they removed the margin of victory component. Never mind that beating opponents by significant margins might be the sign of a good team. In 2010, statistical guru Jerry Palm noticed one of the computer rankings had a mistake that altered the final BCS rankings. How often has that happened? Who knows? Wes Colley was one of the few that opened his rankings for inspection, for those — like Palm — savvy enough to do so.

The BCS diminished New Year’s Day
In the final bowl season before the BCS in 1997, six bowl games were played on New Year’s Day — the Citrus, Sugar, Outback, Gator, Cotton and Rose. Granted, that’s the same amount of Jan. 1 bowl games in 2013. But consider the ballooning of bowl season since then — Six of 18 bowl games that year were Jan. 1. There were 35 bowl games in 2013. Also in 1997, bowl season ended on Jan. 2 with the Orange and Peach bowls. Making a New Year’s Day bowl game used to be a major accomplishment. This season Jan. 1 featured North Texas and UNLV playing on ESPNU as some of the more prominent games, including the title game, stretched into the following week.

The BCS still prevented upstart teams from the big stage
True, the BCS may be more responsible for the rise of Boise State and Utah than anything else. But don’t let that obscure that the BCS had one job: To match the No. 1 and No. 2 team in a bowl game. The rest was, essentially, the old bowl system at work. There were automatic bids for major conference champions and other teams that reached certain thresholds in the rankings. But the rest of the non-title game pairings were still based on who could sell more tickets or guarantee a big TV ranking. The two-teams-per-conference rule also kept deserving teams out of major bowl games. Top 10 teams from Arkansas, Boise State, Kansas State, Missouri, Texas Tech and Oregon all missed out on BCS games over the years in essence because their travel parties weren’t big enough.

The BCS rankings put too much focus the preseason
Kudos to the BCS never releasing the standings before mid-October, but that wasn’t enough. The habits of pollsters didn’t change. Teams in the preseason rankings, in general, tended to keep their ranking until they lost. Case in point: 2004 Auburn started 17th in the preseason AP poll. USC and Oklahoma were ranked Nos. 1-2. Guess who played for the title? The weekly horse race was probably fun for fans and fed into the every-week-is-a-playoff line BCS supporters were trumpeting. But it also invited anger and confusion if one team jumped another when both teams won. Our advice to the College Football Playoff selection committee: Follow the lead of the basketball committee and keep your picks close to the vest until all the games are finished.

The BCS encouraged watered-down schedules
If teams know the voters tended to keep undefeated major-conference teams ranked ahead of teams with losses, then what’s the incentive to play tough non-conference games? During the BCS era, regular-season schedules expanded from 11 games to 12, but most power programs used that extra game to schedule an extra September gimme game or a sure Homecoming win. Granted, some teams — Oregon, Virginia Tech and LSU, for example — still scheduled premier non-conference games, but others were happy to sell out their stadiums for Sun Belt or FCS schools. With the exception of traditional rivalry games, true home-and-home matchups between power programs became increasingly rare.

Conference realignment
Among unintended consequences of the BCS era: A Big 12 with 10 teams, a Big Ten with 14 teams including Rutgers and Maryland, a Missouri team that plays in the SEC East but doesn’t play Kansas, a Thanksgiving without Texas-Texas A&M and the destruction of the Big East and the WAC.

S-E-C, S-E-C
If the BCS itself wasn’t the villain of the era, then the SEC became one. The end of the BCS era culminated with the rise of the SEC as the unquestioned king of college football. Seven consecutive national championships by four different programs set up an SEC monolith. By the end, the SEC champion was assured a spot in the title game, and even then SEC teams played by their own rules. The only time a team lost two games for a national championship? LSU. The only time a team failed to win its division played for (and won) a national title? Alabama. And then there’s that chant.

Teaser:
11 Reasons You're Glad to Say Goodbye to the BCS
Post date: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/2013-14-bowl-season-winners-and-losers
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In a literal sense, the college football postseason is one meaningful game preceded by 34 exhibitions.

Maybe that’s true to a degree, but the bowl season has a way of setting the storylines for the offseason. After all, this is the only college football anyone is going to see until August, unless you start counting spring games.

Here’s who gained and lost the most through bowl season.

Bowl Season Winners and Losers

Winner: Florida State
Have we seen the beginning of a sea change in the college football postseason. Certainly, switching from the BCS to the College Football Playoff will be a major storyline, but Florida State may be the nation’s top program in the new era. Florida State won the final BCS championship and is likely the preseason No. 1 in the first year of the playoff. Heisman winner Jameis Winston will be a redshirt freshman, and all but 14 players on the depth chart from the title game signed between 2011-13.

Loser: The SEC
Florida State ended the SEC’s streak of seven consecutive national championships, but Alabama’s loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl gave the SEC an 0-2 record in the BCS. The league still finished 7-3 in bowl season, but the SEC doesn’t pride itself on merely winning Capital One Bowls and Cotton Bowls.

Winner: Trevor Knight’s emergence
Oklahoma’s flip flopping at quarterback due to injuries and ineffectiveness cast a shadow over the season for the Sooners up until kickoff in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. Trevor Knight’s bowl performance did more than ensure he’ll open 2014 as the starter; it likely makes Oklahoma the preseason Big 12 favorite and Knight one of the country’s rising stars. It’s tough to overstate how shocking Knight’s performance was in New Orleans. Since September, Knight had passed for a total of 260 yards. Against Alabama, Knight completed 32 of 44 passes for 348 yards with four touchdown passes as the Sooners converted 5 of their first 7 third downs. Against a defense that had allowed only three 40-yard pass plays all year, Knight had a pair of touchdown passes for at least 40 yards.

Loser: AJ McCarron’s sendoff
The Alabama quarterback has had one of the great careers in college football history, but forgive him if he never wants to see a redshirt freshman dual-threat quarterback ever again. Knight upstaged McCarron in his final game, but McCarron had his own problems — not that they were all his fault. Protection fell apart all night in the Sugar Bowl as McCarron finished 19 of 30 for 387 yards with two touchdowns, but also three turnovers. The final, a fumble on his last play, yielded the touchdown that put the game out of reach.

Winner: Clemson’s validated season
This is the end of an era for the Tigers with quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins moving on (and perhaps offensive coordinator Chad Morris). Clemson made sure their tenures ended with a meaningful 40-35 win over Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. Boyd finished with 505 yards of total offense, and Watkins caught 16 passes for 227 yards with two touchdowns.

Loser: Ohio State against top teams
The Buckeyes were poised to go to the national championship game into the first weekend of December before the 34-24 loss to Michigan State. By the end of the season, we learned the only thing more suspect than Ohio State’s schedule was the Buckeyes’ defense. Against Michigan, Michigan State and Clemson, Ohio State allowed an average of 539 yards per game and seven yards per play over the final three games of the season.

Winner: Bob Stoops’ vindication
The Oklahoma coach took a well-earned victory lap after the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. Stoops hasn’t been shy about saying he’s not really buying into the depth of the SEC. If Oklahoma lost big to Alabama — an outcome that wouldn’t have been shocking — Sooners fans probably would stop buying into “Big Game Bob.” Instead, Oklahoma upset the Tide 45-31. This wasn’t one of Stoops’ best teams in Norman, but it still went 11-2 and will finish in the top 10 for the first time since 2010. Stoops has earned the right to speak his mind a little more.

Loser: Texas A&M’s paper-thin defense
Texas A&M will need to find a new identity in 2014 if Johnny Manziel heads to the NFL Draft as expected. The Aggies’ defense has been a liability all year but never more than in the first half of the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Duke. The Blue Devils scored at will, putting up 38 points and 365 yards on 36 plays before halftime. The Aggies came back to win 52-48, but the offseason will have more questions than answers.

Winner: Bo Pelini’s offseason
The sarcastic remarks were a little too easy as Nebraska entered the Gator Bowl against Georgia with four losses — the mark Bo Pelini has hit exactly in each of his six seasons with the Cornhuskers. Fate, it seems, won’t let Pelini get to five losses. Indeed, such a mark would only help the Cornhuskers to fire him, if they wanted to. Instead, Nebraska’s defense twice stopped Georgia on fourth down inside the 20 in the fourth quarter in the 24-19 win. Including those defensive stands, Pelini’s defense held Georgia to 2.2 yards per carry with four sacks and an interception. Pelini may still enter 2014 coaching for his job, but at least he won’t go into the offseason following his worst year as a head coach.

Loser: Minnesota in crunch time
Minnesota letting a bowl win slip away is getting to be a tradition. After trailing 14-3, Minnesota took a fourth quarter lead on Syracuse in the Texas Bowl before surrendering a long punt return that set up the Orange to win 21-17. A year ago, Minnesota led Texas Tech by a touchdown in the fourth quarter before the Red Raiders scored 10 points in the final 1:10 to win 34-31. And in 2006, Minnesota had one of the biggest bowl collapses in history by giving up a 31-point lead to Texas Tech, ending the tenure of former coach Glen Mason. The Gophers have lost six consecutive bowl games, with the last win coming in 2004.

Winner: The SEC’s returning tailbacks
Bowl performances from LSU’s Jeremy Hill (216 yards, two touchdowns vs. Iowa) and Georgia’s Todd Gurley (183 yards from scrimmages vs. Nebraska) weren’t totally unexpected, but Alabama, even in a loss, showed the depths of their running back talent. Derrick Henry had carried the ball 27 times all season before facing Oklahoma, but he was turned out to be just a dynamic mix of strength and speed as Hill and Gurley. Henry rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on only eight carries and delivered one of the highlights of the game with his 61-yard touchdown catch, his first career reception, on a swing pass. If 2013 was the year of the quarterback in the SEC, the 2014 season might be a return to form for the league’s tailbacks. Hill, Gurley and Henry will all return.

Loser: The Big Ten’s substitute quarterbacks
Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan all had to go to backup quarterbacks during bowl season with only the Wolverines preparing to play in the postseason without their starting quarterback. The results were not good. Freshman Shane Morris was 24 of 38 for 196 yards with an interception in the 31-14 loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Making matters worse, he was also the only player to rush for more than 14 yards. Iowa freshman C.J. Beathard was 4 of 7 with a touchdown and an interception after replacing starter Jake Rudock. Badgers backup Curt Phillips threw two picks after Joel Stave left the Capital One Bowl with a shoulder injury

Winner: The Pac-12’s returning quarterbacks
Want to energize a fanbase for the upcoming season? How about a dominant performance by a quarterback followed by the quarterback announcing he’ll return to school. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota returned from the knee injury that hampered his running ability late in the season to rush for 133 yards on 15 carries in a 30-7 win over Texas in the Alamo Bowl. He also completed 18 of 26 passes for 253 yards with a touchdown. UCLA’s Brett Hundley may have been even better, rushing for 161 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries plus 16-of-19 passing for 226 yards and two touchdowns in the 42-12 win over Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl. Oregon State’s Sean Mannion also will return to school after a bowl win over Boise State. Oregon will remain in the title hunt with Mariota back, but UCLA remains a team worth watching with Hundley returning.

Loser: David Shaw’s second-half decisions
The Stanford coach will have two calls that may gnaw at him all offseason from the second half of the Rose Bowl. On a fourth and 3 from the Michigan State 36 with 4:16 left in the third quarter, Shaw opted to roll the dice early, but Tyler Gaffney was stopped for a three-yard loss. Then, with the game on the line on a fourth and 1 in the final moments, Shaw went to fullback Ryan Hewitt, who was stuffed at the line. Two years ago, Stanford lost the Fiesta Bowl when the Cardinal missed a 35-yard field goal on third and 2, preserving a tie and allowing Oklahoma State to win in overtime.

Winner: Connor Cook’s progression
Back in September, three Michigan State quarterbacks combined for one measly offensive touchdown against USF at home. The Spartans will enter 2014 with quarterback one of the team’s top strengths. Cook was 22 of 36 for 332 yards with two touchdowns and an interception as Michigan State put the game in his hands in the 24-20 Rose Bowl victory. The Spartans will need the offense to open 2014 fully formed as the defense will have its share of rebuilding without Darqueze Dennard, Denicos Allen and Max Bullough.

Loser: The MAC
Credit the MAC for being good TV, all the way up to the GoDaddy Bowl on Sunday, but world-beaters MAC teams are not. Northern Illinois may have started 2-0 against the Big Ten, but the MAC went 0-5 in bowl games. Only one of those bowl losses came to a major conference team (Bowling Green to Pittsburgh).

Winner: Louisville’s Sunshine State credibility
The Cardinals aren’t going to contend for the ACC next season with Teddy Bridgewater off to the NFL and Charlie Strong to Texas. But the new Cardinals coach has a nice head start. Even with Bridgewater gone, Louisville has its core of veterans back. And if the new coach continues to recruit Florida aggressively — as Strong and Bobby Petrino did — he can brag about Louisville easily defeating the Gators and Miami in bowl games the last two seasons.

Loser: Paul Johnson’s offseason
Not that Paul Johnson’s disposition will show much difference, but this isn’t going to be a fun offseason for the Georgia Tech coach. The Yellow Jackets collapsed to lose 41-34 in double overtime at home to Georgia, their fifth consecutive loss in the series. Then the Yellow Jackets lost 25-17 to Ole Miss in the Music City Bowl. Days later, CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman reported Johnson was unhappy at Georgia Tech, and he had hoped a buyout would be on its way (Johnson denied it). With a 28-25 record since the 2009 ACC title, Johnson might not have to wait long.

Winner: Dan Mullen’s peace of mind
In the SEC, someone has to be the hot seat coach of the year (hello, Will Muschamp). Mississippi State’s Mullen appeared to be headed that way with precious few big wins, but the Bulldogs ended the season in a high note — three consecutive wins including Ole Miss and a Liberty Bowl rout of Rice to ensure a fourth consecutive winning season for Mullen.

Loser: Arizona State’s showing
Every postseason a handful of teams look like they’d rather be home for the holidays or in a better bowl game. Arizona State was that team this year. The Sun Devils, who were playing as well as anyone leading up to the Pac-12 title game, trailed 27-6 to Texas Tech at one point and botched clock management at the end of the first half. An embarrassing episode in an otherwise good year for Todd Graham.

Winner: Texas Tech’s big upset
The Big 12 was involved in the three biggest bowl surprises with Oklahoma defeating Alabama in the Sugar and UCF defeating Baylor in the Fiesta. The third was Texas Tech’s 37-23 win over Pac-12 South champion Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl. Kliff Kingsbury’s year-long quest to find a quarterback culminated with freshman Davis Webb completing 28 of 41 passes for 403 yards with four touchdowns. The Red Raiders had lost five in a row entering bowl season.

Loser: Washington State’s collapse
Bowl season began in dramatic fashion, though it didn’t look like it would start that way. Washington State took a 35-13 lead in the second quarter of the New Mexico Bowl against Colorado State, but the Rams continued to chip away at the lead. Washington State helped by rushing for minus-10 yards and fumbling twice to lose 48-45.

Winner: Steve Sarkisian’s quarterback situation
Sarkisian inherited Jake Locker when he took the Washington job, and at USC he’ll inherit another incumbent quarterback ready to take the next step. Cody Kessler completed 22 of 30 passes for 344 yards and four touchdowns in the 45-20 win over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Kessler completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 8.5 yards per attempt with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions in his final seven games of the season.

Loser: Charlie Strong’s outlook
The Alamo Bowl served in part to show how far Texas has to go to be a national title contender under new coach Charlie Strong. The Longhorns’ defense played about as well as it possibly could, holding the Ducks to one offensive touchdown in the first half. Yet the Longhorns still lost by 23. Case McCoy was dreadful, completing 8 of 17 passes for 48 yards with two touchdowns. One of Strong’s first jobs will be to groom Tyrone Swoopes or incoming freshman Jerrod Heard for the position.

Winner: January bowl games
The final year of the BCS brought memorable games, especially for underdogs. Oklahoma, UCF, Clemson and Michigan State all defeated favorites in their BCS games. All together, bowls on Jan. 1 or later were decided by an average of 9.2 points. Pulling that average up was North Texas’ 36-14 win over UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Loser: December bowl games
A few games were close, but the December bowl games were mostly duds settled by an average of 15.7 points per game.

Teaser:
2013-14 Bowl Season Winners and Losers
Post date: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/bcs-championship-game-rapid-reaction-florida-state-34-auburn-31
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The final BCS championship game was billed as a matchup between the team that dominated all year and the team that found ways to win in unlikely fashion.

Florida State proved they can be one in the same in defeating Auburn 34-31 for the BCS championship.

The Seminoles trailed by 18 before staging the biggest second-half comeback in BCS title game history. A game-winning drive from Winston and a 100-yard kickoff return from little-known freshman Levonte “Kermit” Whitfield in the fourth quarter provided all the miracles against the Tigers.

The game, in many ways, summed up the BCS era. The most dramatic title game since Texas defeated USC in 2005 — a game also played in the Rose Bowl — return the national championship to Florida State. The SEC has ruled college football for seven consecutive seasons, but the start of the BCS era was notable for the dominance of the Seminoles.

As the College Football Playoff begins in 2014, Florida State is back on top.

RAPID REACTION: Florida State 34, Auburn 31

Player of the game: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston
Unflappable for most of the season, Winston showed something in the first half we hadn’t seen in the redshirt freshman — panic. Winston went through a 1-of-7 drought at one point as Auburn built a 21-3 first-half lead. Winston completed 9 of his final 10 passes for 117 yards with two touchdowns, including the game winner.

Turning point: Chris Davis’ pass interference
With 21 seconds remaining, Florida State was down to its final two plays on third and 3 from the Auburn 5. Winston made the situation tougher with a delay of game penalty. Davis, who ran back the missed field goal to beat Alabama, was flagged for a clear pass inference on the ensuing play to move FSU up to the 2-yard line. Winston completed the game-winning touchdown pass to Benjamin on the next play.

Unsung hero: Auburn punter Steven Clark
More than month of dissecting this game and how often was Auburn’s punter mentioned? With help from his coverage team, Clark twice pinned Florida State inside its own five. The first pinned FSU at its own 2 to set up Auburns’ first touchdown after a three and out and 22-yard punt return from Chris Davis. Clark landed five of his six punts inside the 20 while averaging 43.2 yards per kick.

Needed more from: Auburn’s defense on the final drive
Beyond the pass inference call on Chris Davis that helped set up the touchdown, Auburn’s defense had major lapses on the game’s decisive drive. The Tigers’ secondary missed tackles on Rashad Greene on a 49-yard reception that put FSU in scoring range.

Critical call: Florida State’s fake punt
Winston looked lost for most of the first half as Auburn built a 21-3 lead. In a move close to desperation, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher called for a fake punt at his own 40. The Seminoles converted on the Karlos Williams’ run and scored a touchdown to finish the half. The Seminoles outscored Auburn 31-10 after the fake punt.

Stat that matters: 723
With 723 points in 2013, Florida State broke 2008 Oklahoma’s FBS scoring record of 716 points.

Three snap judgements

• Tre Mason was the best player on the field. Winston was rightfully the player of the game, but Mason may have had the best game of anyone in the title game. Mason rushed for 195 yards and the go-ahead touchdown with 1:19 to go on 34 carries. All this against a run defense that ranked sixth in fewest yards allowed per carry.

• Auburn’s was defense up to the task. Before the lapses on the final drive, the story of the game was Auburn’s defense. Ellis Johnson’s D was considered one of the weak links in this game, but the Tigers flummoxed Winston early. Beyond Rashad Greene, none of Florida State’s talented receivers made a major impact in the first three quarters. Defensive end Dee Ford also finished with two sacks.

• The turnaround by Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin may have had the biggest turnaround of any player in the game. Winston struggled to find him early or tried to get him the ball in traffic. Benjamin also didn’t help his cause with drops. Greene finished with nine catches for 147 yards, but Benjamin has key late. He had a 21-yard touchdown catch to move FSU to the Auburn 11 on one scoring drive in the fourth quarter before catching the game-winning score.

Armchair reaction
The biggest winner, other than Florida State, was ESPN’s Film Room. ESPN used nearly all of its platforms for a Megacast to varying degrees of success. The most welcome feature, at least according to the live-viewing Twitter audience, was the Film Room on ESPNNews. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst and Boston College coach Steve Addazio joined Tom Luginbill, Matt Millen and Chris Spielman to break down the game live using the All-22 camera angle. There were kinks for sure — perhaps too many voices and little of the typical play-by-play you’d get on a typical broadcast — but ESPN took note of the positive chatter. The Film Room was slated to be available on ESPN3.com after the game on ESPNU at 4 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday.

Teaser:
BCS Championship Game Rapid Reaction: Florida State 34, Auburn 31
Post date: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - 00:52
All taxonomy terms: College Football, UCLA Bruins, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/brett-hundley-turns-down-nfl-returns-ucla-2014
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UCLA’s Pac-12 title hopes got a huge boost this week, as quarterback Brett Hundley has decided to return to school for his junior year.

Hundley was projected by some to be a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but he decided to stay at UCLA for one more season. Hundley’s decision to return to campus is huge for the Bruins, as Jim Mora’s team could be the favorite to win the Pac-12 in 2014.

After throwing for 3,745 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2012, Hundley’s numbers dropped just a bit in 2013. He completed a higher percentage of throws (67.2 to 66.6), but threw for only 3,071 yards this year.

Hundley should benefit from another season of working with offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, and a solid supporting cast should have the junior quarterback in the mix for preseason All-America honors.
 

Teaser:
Brett Hundley Turns Down NFL; Returns to UCLA for 2014
Post date: Monday, January 6, 2014 - 16:04
Path: /college-basketball/notre-dames-eric-atkins-athlons-national-player-week
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Notre Dame had been having enough trouble this season even with Jerian Grant.

The Irish’s normally stout homecourt advantage hasn’t even been in play as the Irish lost to Indiana State and North Dakota State.

Then came disaster: Notre Dame lost an eight-point lead in the final minute against Ohio State and the same week lost Grant for the season to an academic issue.

At least this week, guard Eric Atkins was there to salvage the season. Atkins scored 19 points and added 11 assists in a 79-77 win over Duke on Saturday to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.

The win gave Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, a former Duke assistant, the first win for a Blue Devils assistant over Mike Krzyzewski. But more important, the victory may turn the tide on the season.

"I think it definitely gives us a lot of life," Atkins said. "Everybody's confidence is up now after winning such a big game. I'm really happy for Coach Brey to get that one against Coach K. But for us I think it is going to jump start us."

Athlon Sports College Basketball National Awards: Jan. 6

National Player of the Week: Eric Atkins, Notre Dame
Atkins had 19 points, 11 assists and only two turnovers in a shocking 79-77 win at home over Duke on Saturday. Since Grant’s final game of the season, Atkins has shot 17 of 27 from the field in two games.

National Freshman of the Week: Marcus Foster, Kansas State
Kansas State has come a long way from the team that lost to Northern Colorado in its opener thanks in part to the development of the freshman Foster. With 17 points and eight rebounds, Forster led the Wildcats to a 74-71 win over shorthanded Oklahoma State on Saturday. Foster had 15 points earlier in the week in a 72-55 win over Atlantic 10 upstart George Washington.

Under-the-Radar Player of the Week: Devin Oliver, Dayton
Oliver hit a 3-point shot with 0.3 seconds left in overtime to give Dayton an 83-80 win at Ole Miss on Saturday. Oliver finished with 26 points on 11-of-14 to go with seven rebounds and five assists in the win over the Rebels. Oliver scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in an 81-47 rout of Winthrop on Wednesday.

Other Primetime Players

Xavier Thames, San Diego State
Thames sealed San Diego State’s 61-57 win Kansas on Sunday with four free throws in the final seconds. The senior guard scored 16 points against KU in the Jayhawks’ first non-conference home loss since 2006. One of the country’s breakout players this season. Thames also had 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting and five steals in a 71-61 road win over Colorado State on Wednesday.

Askia Booker, Colorado
Booker went a mere 3 of 10 from the field Thursday in a win over Oregon State, but he and Colorado couldn’t be stopped against Oregon. Booker scored 27 points in an 100-91 win over the Ducks, their first loss of the season. Booker went 8 of 16 from the field with seven rebounds and four assists. He’s also been near-automatic from the line, hitting 19 of 21 free throws in his last three games.

Semaj Christon, Xavier
Xavier’s top postseason awards candidate led the way through the Musketeers’ 2-0 start in the Big East. Christon had 20 points, eight assists and three steals in a come-from-behind 79-68 win over Butler on Saturday. He added 10 points against St. John’s on Tuesday. The most impressive stat: 16 assists, no turnovers for the week.

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown
Georgetown has dominated the rivalry with St. John’s, and nowhere was it more apparent as Smith-Rivera scored 20 points in the 77-60 win. Smith-Rivera finished with 30 points and six rebounds in the Hoyas’ sixth consecutive win in the series. Smith-Rivera added 12 points and eight rebounds in a 61-54 win over DePaul in the Big East opener.

Doug McDermott, Creighton
McDermott had his fifth 30-point game of the season with 30 — plus 10 rebounds and five assists — in a 79-66 win at Seton Hall on Saturday. He also completed a streak of 45 consecutive free throws with a miss late in the second half against Seton Hall. The national player of the year contender opened Big East play with 19 points and seven rebounds in a 67-49 win over Marquette on Tuesday.

Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico
In what’s shaping up as a career year for the Lobos’ senior, Bairstow had a career night in an 80-73 win over Colorado State. The Australian forward matched a career high with 29 points and set a career high with 14 rebounds against the Rams. Bairstow also finished 13 of 20 from the free throw line.

Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
After decisive losses to New Mexico and Xavier, Cincinnati has been in need of a landmark win. Kilpatrick helped the Bearcats deliver on that with 18 points in a 69-53 win over Memphis on the road. Kilpatrick scored 11 of his points late as the Bearcats overcame an early deficit. The senior added 13 points and six points earlier in the week in a 65-57 win over surprising SMU.
 

Teaser:
Notre Dame's Eric Atkins is Athlon's National Player of the Week
Post date: Monday, January 6, 2014 - 12:45

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